The Christina School District is requesting $3.5 million in state funding for renovations to the Brennen School, the home of the Delaware Autistic Program.
Christina asked for $2.9 million for the same project last year, but the request was denied. Christina spokeswoman Alva Mobley said the larger request this year is due to the increased cost of materials and labor.
The repairs will center around the “Purple Path” wing of the school, which focuses on the youngest students at Brennen. The 31-year-old roof will be replaced, along with a full gut of the interior, with upgrades to the plumbing, mechanical, and electrical systems of the building. Twelve classrooms that are too small for the school will be converted into eight larger classrooms.
Because the Delaware Autism Program is state-funded, all of the funding for the renovations will be provided by the state. Christina will not need to hold a referendum.
Brennen shares a campus on East Chestnut Hill Road with Kirk Middle, Jennie Smith Elementary and the Christina Early Education Center.
Maureen Rozanski, a representative of the architecture firm Buck Simpers Architects, said that a concern is how the work could disrupt students, and that the company’s previous work at Brennen in 2016 used a detailed plan to minimize the impact construction noise has on students.
“The good thing is this portion of the building can be pretty well contained from the other areas,” Rozanski said. “It’s not really right in the middle of the school.”
The project is expected to begin in 2023 and be completed in 2024.
Board member Donald Patton expressed a concern about having renovations impacting student populations because there will be fewer classrooms, but the larger classrooms could lead to Brennen supporting an equal or larger student body then its current enrollment.
“These rooms are extremely tight for the number of kids and the amount of space they require within their classrooms,” Rozanski said. “By converting these into larger classrooms, that really will be a huge benefit to the students.”
Brennen previously underwent renovations in 2016, but the Purple Path area was not renovated. The previous project focused on entrance improvements, sidewalk repairs, interior modifications, ADA compliance and building systems upgrades.
The district said that the current conditions jeopardize the safety of students and that Brennen is the only school requesting funding this fiscal year.