Caesar Rodney district eyes St. Thomas More Academy for possible expansion
The 22-year-old Catholic school closed this academic year due to declining enrollment and financial burdens, according to a letter written by Rachael Casey, the school’s principal. St. Thomas More had 48 students in the last academic year.
“Since we no longer use the building and we don’t need the problem of dealing with it, it was decided to sell the property,” said Robert Krebs, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.
Among those interested in the 33-acre property is Caesar Rodney School District, the largest public-school district in Kent County. Ken Starke, the district supervisor of facilities management, said that St. Thomas More was being considered as a possible middle school to meet growing enrollment.
Caesar Rodney School District has 7,614 students enrolled across its 15 schools and it’s expected to rise to 7,780 by 2035, according to a study the Delaware Department of Education commissioned in 2016.
Krebs said that several organizations were also looking at buying the school, but declined to comment whether they were education institutions or developers.
St. Thomas More is zoned Agricultural Conservation (AC) District, which allows recreation facilities, public parks and private pools, golf courses, nature trails and single-family residences.
If turned into single-family homes, density requirements would only allow one dwelling unit per 10 acres with certification from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. As currently zoned, that would allow for three houses.
In its Preliminary Land Use Service application filed this month, Caesar Rodney School District is seeking to leave the land zoned AC.
The St. Thomas More Academy campus has three buildings for classrooms, a multi-purpose building and gymnasium. The grounds include ballfields and soccer fields. The school was built after years of advocating for a new Catholic high school south of the C&D Canal after Holy Cross High School in Dover closed in 1987.
The land was donated in 1994 and a capital campaign raised $1.6 million to start construction two years later. The school was expanded in 2003 with a chapel, lobby, cafeteria and media center and fine arts suite, according to the The Dialog, a Catholic newspaper.
The Holy Cross diocese took over St. Thomas More Academy in 2017.