Joshua Keeran | The Gazette

A handful of changes are coming to Delaware Christian School this year as the school tries to accommodate the continued growth in the building.

Perhaps most notable among those changes is the work associated with preparations for 13 new classrooms that are planned to be built next year. Delaware Christian is currently progressing through a $4 million fundraising campaign to finance the project. Jane Miner, head of school at Delaware Christian, said the school is more than two-thirds of the way through its capital campaign, which began last summer.

Miner told The Gazette the hope is to finish the campaign by the end of the upcoming school year, and should the financing be secured, ground would be broken on the new building in the spring. When finished, the additional classroom space will provide much-needed relief to the overcrowded elementary classes.

“At this present time, we only have one elementary classroom per grade,” Miner said. “So, we’re hoping to double our elementary classrooms, kindergarten through fifth grade, and then have an extra room for intervention.”

Delaware Christian’s enrollment has increased by “quite a large amount,” according to Miner, which has hastened the need for more classrooms. Enrollment for the 2022-23 school year is projected to be around 380-4oo students. Miner said the school would like to have classroom sizes of 20 students per room, but all current elementary classes are at 30 students per room at the moment.

Before the addition can be built, Miner said Delaware Christian must first reconfigure its current space, which includes constructing a new storage building to relocate the current storage space.

“Right now, presently going on, in order to put that building up on our west end, we need to move some storage buildings,” Miner said. “So, right now, the new storage building is going up. The foundation was just dug last week, so we’re kind of moving some buildings around so that we can put that new building up.”

To remedy the packed classrooms in the interim, the school has hired full-time aides for each of the elementary classrooms to assist teachers. Because the kindergarten class at Delaware Christian has experienced such considerable growth, Miner said the school has added a second full-time teacher to essentially split the kindergarten class, although they will still share the same classroom.

With the second kindergarten teacher position being filled by a current first grade teacher at the school, Delaware Christian has hired a new first grade teacher. A new sixth grade teacher was also hired to account for the growth being experienced at the middle school level.

“That is kind of enhancing our middle school,” Miner said of the personnel move. “We’re able to split our sixth grade into two divisions now because they are so large … That fifth and sixth grade age is where we’ve seen the most amount of growth, mostly because the other classes, we’re stopping them because we don’t have any place to go with them.

“Last school year, we doubled the fifth grade and that was a first for us then. We hired a new teacher for that, and as that whole group of kids is moving into sixth grade and even growing larger, that’s why we hired another sixth grade teacher.”

Asked about the level of growth Delaware Christian is experiencing this year compared to years past, Miner said that while there’s been consistent growth in recent years, it’s been greater this year. Miner anticipates welcoming close to 40 new families to Delaware Christian this school year.

Although growth is sure to bring new challenges to Delaware Christian, which Miner acknowledged, she added that with growth also comes new opportunity.

“It’s kind of two-fold,” Miner said. “I would say the challenge is to keep our academics excellent, which is why we’ve hired additional staff, to make sure that there is plenty of staff per student ratio.”

On the other hand, she said, “It’s growing our sports programs. Last year, we went back to high school soccer teams, which we’ve not had for a couple of years. We were able to open up some middle school and upper-elementary sports things because of that area growing. So, it’s just opening so many more opportunities for our families.”

With growth unlikely to slow down anytime soon, Miner anticipates starting up another building program shortly after the current campaign is finished. Among the projects she would like to see in the near future are an additional gymnasium and more high school classrooms. “That’s all in the future, all in the Lord’s will,” she said.

The high school administrative team will also look different this coming year following the retirement of Principal Tom Carroll, who had been at Delaware Christian since 2015. A new position, dean of students, has been created and will be filled by David Mulligan. Miner said she will take on some of the academic responsibilities typically associated with the principal, effectively splitting the traditional position into two roles.

“We’re just trying to transition into our growth and give us a little time to hire someone completely,” Miner said of the new position, adding that Mulligan’s role will be focused primarily on the culture within the building and creating a student-centric environment in the high school.

Miner went on to say of the culture she wants to see throughout the school, “I want it to represent what we call the DCS way. D stands for demonstrating your faith — we want our students to be strong and confident in their faith. C stands for caring for others more than themselves — I want the school to be representative of a real service heart, to be service-oriented, to influence the community with that service. S stands for studying to the best of your ability — we definitely want to be an academically excellent school. And all of those things sort of roll in together as the students are in the hallways.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.