Former students, teachers and administrators of the Milford Middle School building located on Lakeview Avenue payed their respects on Monday, June 3, as a public walkthrough of the property was held. 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 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.
Opening the public ceremony on Monday night, Milford School District Superintendent Phyllis Kohel spoke to the public about the decision to demolish the historical building and build a new Milford Middles School in its place.
“This is a very emotional subject for the public as many of you attended and graduated from this school,” commented Kohel detailing that the location was once home to the Milford High School. “We appreciate the concerns you have regarding this historical place. It is a shame that the deterioration of the facility has led us to the decision to demolish the building but we need a safe environment to continue to educate children in the district.”
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.
In attendance during the public walkthrough on Monday night was Charles Hammond, Joseph Clark and Greg Showell, three of the first seven African Americans to graduate from the Milford High School in 1965. Although eleven black students attempted school integration eleven years before, the Class of 1965 was the first year that diplomas were given to African American students.
“The idea that we were the first African Americans to graduate from Milford was monumental, “ commented Mr. Clark. ”At the time, just like everyone else, we were just happy to be graduating.”
Charles Hammond recognized the contributions that were made by the African American students in 1954, commonly referred to as the Milford Eleven. “Walking in the footsteps of [the Milford Eleven] we had the opportunity to be able to rub elbows with those who were and would become influential in this town,” commented Hammond. “We were able to finish what they begun as they sought the opportunity to be educated.”
Former teacher Cheryl Hoey, who taught at the school for 26 years, was present to say goodbye to the school that has left her with so many memories. “I remember the teachers that I worked with over the years, we were like one big family and always there to support each other,” commented Mrs. Hoey. “I will really miss the school and its image on the Milford community.”
Milford School 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 a letter to the public last month, she stated that a a referendum would include the cost of demolishing the old MMS and building a new 1,200 student Middle School.
“We will keep the public informed about every step we take during this process,” commented Superintendent Kohel. “The opinion of those in the community will be an critical factor as we move forward.”