On Tuesday, October 9 the Milford School District held their first meeting to discuss the future of the Milford Middle School. A group of teachers, parents, business owners and community members has been chosen by the district to serve on the committee that will help evaluate the options and determine what is best for the community, district and students moving forward. Due to the Milford Middle School’s (MMS) condition and age, Dr. Phyllis Kohel, Superintendent of the Milford Schools, and the District believe it is time to have the discussion about what will happen to MMS in the coming years.
Presented at the first meeting were two building analysis reports that were performed by Carolyn A. Cohee, a volunteer construction consultant for the Milford School District, and private architecture and site planning firm French & Ryan, Inc. The original building that appears at the front entrance of the school, adorned with solid pillars on both sides of the doorway, was constructed in 1929, with additional wings added for an increased student population between the 1940s and the 1960s. Due to the period of time the building was constructed, many of the building practices that were considered routine are not performed today including materials and construction practices.
Carolyn Cohee shared an analysis that she performed in 2006 on the Milford Middle School, showing members of the committee several areas where the exterior and interior of the school are deteriorating with age. She recorded cracked bricks and concrete that are visible on the outside of MMS and water damage and aged pipes that contribute to its continued state of degradation. According to Ms. Cohee the condition of the building is not getting better since her analysis in 2006 and many of the problem that were recognized have been covered instead of replaced or repaired.
Pat Ryan, partner of French & Ryan Inc. and Registered Architect and Licensed Professional Planner, saw much of the same conditions when the company did their analysis of MMS in 2011. Mr. Ryan pointed out problems with the existing roof including gaps in the metal flashing, rusting of the metal portions and the collection of large puddles over the cafeteria and certain classrooms. French & Ryan Inc. also were concerned about the masonry work on the exterior of the building and problems with the electrical and heating systems in the building.
Supporting the concerns of both Carolyn Cohee and French & Ryan Inc., Principal of the Milford Middle School Nancy Carnevale told the committee about the realities of working in a building that has a problematic heating and cooling system.
“Last November we had to close school for several days when we lost heat in the Middle School,” stated Principal Carnevale. “When we called to get the system repaired we were told that the part we needed would have to be made and that it would take several months. We had to bring space heaters into classrooms until the part could be made.”
Although there are problems with the systems found in the Milford Middle School Dr. Kohel stated to the committee that through the analysis of both Carolyn Cohee and French and Ryan Inc., the existing building is structurally safe for students and staff members.
“The building is not crumbling before our eyes and it is safe for our students,” commented Dr. Kohel. “but we need to start talking now about what we do with this building in the future.”
According to Dr. Kohel, the Department of Education has also made it clear that Milford’s Middle School has aged out of its functional use and that any major construction would not be funded by the State of Delaware. This reason adds to the urgency of planning for the future of MMS and determining its use for the community.
There are several options on the table including, but not limited to, closing the building and redistributing students to the existing schools in the district, demolition of the building and construction of a new middle school and preservation of the existing building while making necessary repairs to keep students and staff safe. The district will be holding a series of monthly meeting for the committee to discuss options for the future of the Milford Middle School. Factors such as historical significance, staffing, athletics, busing and finances will all have to be taken into consideration as the committee develops an action plan.
“This is a decision that cannot be made alone,” stated Dr. Kohel in a letter sent to members of the committee. “It must be based upon hard, empirical evidence that leads to a broadly supported conclusion.”