During the November Laurel School Board meeting, the board was introduced to the members of the Sussex Military Academy (SMA) school board. The board was given a presentation by SMA board members Greg Johnson and Dr. Kevin Carson. The academy hopes to partner with the district to start a military academy in the near future. Johnson introduced the new members of SMA.
“Each of these ladies and gentlemen bring many special talents of our board,” Johnson told the board. “There is an immense amount of talent and experience we have gathered together for this endeavor. This is the first time an academy will share a campus with another school and share the services. This proposal will be a beneficial one for both. I have been a lifelong resident of Laurel. I was a 1974 graduate of Laurel High School and have had four children graduate from here. I want to see this project succeed which will also mean the students attending will succeed.”
In addition to Johnson, SMA board members include the following: Paul Downes, who grew up in Laurel and is a retired administrator of Mountaire Farms; Wyatt Lowe, a retired navy veteran with 20 years of service who now works in education as a counselor for Seaford High School; Amy Handy of Laurel who has worked for Laurel for 27 years and has also worked for WBOC and Preston Trucking in video production; Anna Lopez, a military veteran who has worked in training with the Army and oversaw 300 troops and has worked in military operations and now works for the Wounded Warriors Program through Veteran Affairs; Patricia Oliphant who started as a teacher with the Indian River School District and has been a principal and was the head of Sussex Academy as they made the change to being both a middle and high school; and Kevin Carson who has been in education for many years serving as superintendent for several districts and has a background in finance and buildings and grounds.
“Where are we right now with this concept?” asked Carson as he explained to the board the concept of the academy.
“There are going to be many twists and turns as we venture through this project. I must commend Dr. Shawn Larrimore and his team for the help and support. We are not here for a formal request at this time, but to let you know where we stand so far. We are working hand-in-hand with the district so we can get a good charter to bring forth for approval. There is Federal money available which we are applying for and we must submit an application. The amount could be one million dollars for planning a military academy. We intend to put the money to good use. The time frame is to have the application in by April of 2020, we are not in a rush to get the charter done. With this time frame, we are setting up a committee to review the document for legal issues and many other areas so we can get it right. This will help make the document even better.”
Carson explained about the number of students planned for the academy.
“We hope to have 500 men and women students to attend from all over the county. This academy is intended to have students come from all over the county as they do in New Castle and Kent counties. Laurel has the perfect building to house the academy. The 1921 building is vacant right now and will need work to bring it up to standard, but it would serve the needs of the students. We would share services with Laurel School District, such as programs, food service and many other of the services offered by the district. The student of the academy would also be able to participate in athletics ad extra-curricular activities. This school would just be another proud part of the district except the students would come from all over the county. We have had conversations with the Army, and they seem receptive to the concept. The school hopes to open in the fall of 2021, but to reach this date, everything must fall into place. A more realistic date would be the fall of 2022. The academy would start with either grades nine and 10 or nine, 10 and 11.”
The Laurel Historical Society provided Carson with information about the 1921 building. It was originally used as a military academy in 1921. “If there is a sign this will work is the information the society gave us,” said Carson.
Board president Linda Hitchens voiced her enthusiasm about the project. “This is exciting for not only the district, but also for Sussex County. The historical information given by Dr. Carson is amazing. This is something most people don’t know abut the building. I want to thank the SMA board and we are thrilled to be a part of this project.”
Superintendent Larrimore stated, “I want to commend the school board for taking on this project. And commend Mr. Johnson and his board for starting this and to make it successful for the students. As we move forward, we hope all the details can be worked out and we see the 1921 building come to life.”