Middle School Referendum Moves Forward

Photo of the previous Milford Middle School, Taken Carolyn Cohee.
Photo of the previous Milford Middle School, Taken Carolyn Cohee.

On Wednesday, December 11 Milford School District officials held a meeting with the newly created Facilities Advisory Committee to discuss the future of a school referendum that will be aimed at demolition of the building that previously hosted Milford Middle School (MMS) and the construction of a new middle school in its place. 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 on the referendum process.

In 2011, the Delaware Department of Education made it clear to school officials that due to the age and condition of the Milford Middle School, any major construction would not be funded by the State of Delaware. As the agency stated that the facility had aged out of its functional use, Milford Superintendent Phyllis Kohel began a community discussion in 2012 about what the future would hold for the Milford Middle School building.

A committee of community leaders was created and presented with 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. Both presentations pointed out several areas where the exterior and interior of the school were deteriorating with age as well as problems with the electrical and heating systems in the 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 enroll at the Milford Central Academy and 9th through12th grade students enroll at the Milford High School the following year.

The Milford School District has been approved by the State of Delaware Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for $44,614,900 for the process that will include the cost of demolishing the old MMS and the building of a new 1,200 student middle school. This loan is pending approval through the Governor’s Budget which is expected sometime in mid- to late January. The State of Delaware’s share of a construction project will be approximately 71%, as 29%, or $12,938,300, must come from local resources.

According to Superintendent Kohel there are several benefits to passing a referendum for the $12,938,00 at this time. “We will be rebuilding on the same site as the previous middle school which will save us from purchasing any land,” commented Phyllis. “Right now interest rates are low and the competitive construction industry is driving costs down with low interest material and labor costs.”

Dr. Tricia Martin, Principal at Milford Central Academy, shared her concerns about the overcrowding challenge that the students and her staff have had to accompany when 6th through 8th grade students were moved to the school as a result of the closing of the middle school.

“It is very difficult to accommodate three grades in the Milford Central Academy and we are simply becoming overcrowded,” commented Martin. “Ultimately the kids will suffer because of the number of students that will be placed in each class.” The issue of overcrowding could become more serious as a study by the University of Delaware Center for Applied Demography & Survey Research suggests that “the Milford School District student enrollment will increase gradually over the next 10 years, gaining on average about 55 students per year for the first five years and about 41 students over the last five years.”

On Monday, December 16 the Milford Board of Education approved the date of March 26, 2014 to hold the referendum for the demolition of the previous Milford Middle School and the construction of a new middle school on the same site. Moving forward with the process of a referendum school officials will continue to meet with the Facilities Advisory Committee, hold open community meetings and presentations to local organizations, host meetings at each school in the Milford School District and post all information pertaining to the referendum on the district website at http://milfordschooldistrict.org.

At the same time as the construction referendum, on a separate ballot, the Milford School District will ask the public to vote on an operational referendum which will include “continuance and maintenance of ongoing academine programs, increased energy costs associated with the operations of all district facilities and technology.” Superintendent Kohel believes that these referendums will provide many positives impacts on Milford students, parents, staff and community.

“These referendums will help the district to update technology system, expand educational opportunities for students, provide a safe environment for learning, alleviate overcrowding in the elementary school if necessary and help us to implement a STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] program in the Milford Central Academy.”

If the referendum is passed by the public on March 26, 2014 school officials state that it will take three to four years to see a complete demolition of the previous Milford Middle School, construction of the new middle school on the same site and the opening of the school for the purpose of public education. School officials encourage residents to stay informed about the referendum process by visiting http://milfordschooldistrict.org. For more information individuals are urged to email Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Kohel at pkohel@msd.k12.de.us or Director of Finance Mrs. Tammy Korosec at tkorosec@msd.k12.de.us.