Referendum Expected For Demolish, Rebuild Of MMS

Photo Taken Carolyn Cohee.
Photo Taken Carolyn Cohee.

In a letter sent to the public on Friday, May 10, Superintendent of the Milford School District, Phyllis Kohel, answered several questions surrounding the demolition of the Milford Middle School and the possibility of building a new facility on the Lakeview Avenue site. In the beginning stages of the process, Kohel expects that community input and several referendums will decide the exact future of the historical site.

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.The school was in the national spotlight in 1954 as eleven classmates became some of the first African American students to attend a previously all-white school as they attempted school integration that was recognized under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education.

The decision of whether or not to close MMS was brought to the public’s attention in October of 2012 as Superintendent Phyllis Kohel selected a committee composed of community members to look at the possibility of the closure. Reports from public and private consultants confirmed that there is extensive damage to the interior and exterior of the Milford Middle School. According to Superintendent Phyllis Kohel, the Department of Education 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.

“The old Middle School has been found to have a Facilities Condition Index (FCI) of .78,” stated Kohel in her public letter. “The State will not provide any district money to renovate a school building that has a FCI of above .50. Therefore, it is more cost effective to build a new building.”

In January of 2013 a decision was made by the Milford School Board of Education to close the Milford Middle School at the end of the 2012-1013 school year. The decision included that 6th through 8th grade students will go to Milford Central Academy and 9th through12th grade students will go to Milford High School next year.

The District is currently in the process of applying for a Certificate of Necessity with the Office of Management and Budget in Dover, which will be presented to the Department of Education by July 1, 2013. The Certificate is necessary for the district to be considered for school construction funds next year, which includes the demolition and construction of a new school.

According to Kohel, once the Certificate is approved a District Facilities Committee comprised of administrators, staff, parents, and community persons will be formed to begin planning for referendum community forums. In her letter to the public, she states that a a referendum would include the cost of demolishing the old MMS and building a new 1,200 student Middle School. The State of Delaware’s share of a construction project will be approximately 78% as 22% will be from local resources.
At the same time as the construction referendum, Kohel expects that the Milford School District will ask the public to vote on an operational referendum which will include upgrades to the other school in the Milford School District including improvements to the auditorium at Milford High School and a new security entrance at Morris Early Childhood. On a separate ballet the district will also ask for a current expense referendum “to keep up with current expenses with text book replacement [and] technology…” As the official date of any referendum is yet to be announced, Kohel feels that the time to rebuild the Milford Middle School is now.

“From a financial perspective, bond and construction rates are still favorable so if we are going to build a new school, this is the time to do it,” stated Kohel. “Also, the plan will be designed in such a way that it will allow for expansion at all levels. This process will require a number of meetings and a lot of one-on-one conversations regarding tax rates, bond issues, debt service, and more.”