First new Wilmington school in 50 years topped off with joy 

Jarek RutzEducation, Headlines


The Wilmington community celebrated the topping off of its first new school building in decades. (Jarek Rutz/Delaware LIVE News)

Dozens of Wilmington elementary school students chanted “raise it up” and a drum team played while the ceremonial last beam on the first new city school in 50 years was lifted into place by a construction crane.

The new $84 million Bancroft School in Christina School District, which will span several blocks in Wilmington, is expected to open for students by fall 2024.

The topping off ceremony was the centerpiece of a joyous scene that resembled a festival with music, tents and party food. It seemed to serve as a proof of hope for a group that’s been largely overlooked by the state for half a century. 

About 200 children, teachers, construction workers and government officials gathered Thursday morning on 7th and Lombard Streets construction grounds. 

The building will be two floors and serve about 600 students. Most of the staff will transfer to the new building in what George Wicks, supervisor of facilities and planning for the Christina School District, called a “pretty smooth and seamless transition.”

A new name might also be in store, as Gov. John Carney suggested naming the new building the Maurice Pritchett School, after the principal of the Bancroft School from 1975 to 2005. He died in April. 

“We’re honored to have the Pritchett family sitting here up front because Maurice was the long-term principal,” said Carney. “He was a symbol of all the educators who poured their heart and soul into this building and the children who attended there.”

MORE ON THE NEW SCHOOL: New Bancroft School under construction, may open fall ‘24 

“Of all the leaders who’ve worked to improve the lives of the children on the East Side…Mr. Pritchett was on top of that list,” said Dan Shelton, Christina’s superintendent. 

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki announced 7th Street will be renamed Maurice Pritchett Way to honor the former principal. 

The old school, which serves grades one through eight, was built in the 1970s, the decade desegregation efforts began to move city students into the suburbs and vice versa. 

The new Bancroft School campus will be bounded by East 6th and East 8th Streets, and between Lombard and Spruce Streets. 

Every penny that went into the new building was funded by the state. 

“We are so excited about the future of our students,” said Keeley Powell, longtime president of Christina’s school board, “as they learn and grow in this amazing, brand new and state-of-the-art educational space, which is what all of our students deserve.”

To pay homage to the old school’s library, there will be a large display at the entrance of the new auditorium with memorable tokens of the original building.

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