By Phyllis Kohel, Superintendent of Milford School District
On August 18, 2014, the Milford Board of Education met at its regularly advertised monthly meeting and discussed the possibility of going out for a future referendum. Dr. Kohel spoke to the Board and asked that they consider rescinding the previous vote to go out for a single $3 million operations referendum due to the district’s rapidly growing increase of students. She stated that in just one month’s time, the picture of the district changed; “We’re growing, and we’re running out of time. Even though passing an operations referendum is essential, so is building a new school.” The table below shows that the district is experiencing growth in every school. The numbers indicate where the schools ended as far as student counts at the end of last year and where they are now starting the 2014-2015 school year.
The problem that arises from increasing enrollment is that we outgrow the capacity within the school to serve the students. Currently, Ross Elementary is within 20 students of being over capacity; Mispillion has grown 32 students since last year, and by the time this article is published Banneker will have added at least 10 more students. Furthermore, we are 30 students over capacity at the Milford Central Academy. We could consider changing our elementary boundaries and redistributing students to different schools, or we could consider yet another referendum for building two new schools, an elementary and a new middle school, but we need to consider what is best for all members of this community. However, going out just for an operations referendum will not solve our problems. Growing students mean growing buildings which is actually a positive for this community. We need a way to address the issues at all levels, elementary and secondary, without having to continually ask the community to support multiple referenda.
Considering the growth of our community and of the school district, there appears to be two possible options as we move forward. Option #1: We could go out for an operations and construction referendum to build a new middle school that would house grades 5 through 8, but we would still have to purchase land because the acreage off of Lakeview Avenue where our old middle school sits would not accommodate a 1500 student school plus the playgrounds and sports fields that would be needed. Right now, by adding the students in grades 5 through 8, we come up with 1366 students, so we would need to go with a 1500 student school to accommodate growth. We have to build for the future.
Option #2: We can consider going out for an operations and construction referendum to purchase land and build a new 1300 student high school. We have not had a new high school since 1929. If we were to do this, we would restructure the district so that we could utilize the buildings that we have while still having room for growth. For example, we could turn the Milford Central Academy building into a 5th and 6th grade wing and the Milford High School building into a 7th and 8th grade wing; that entire complex would become the Milford Middle School campus and still be under the direction of the same administration; we would not have to hire any additional administrators. That way, there would be room for growth at the elementary schools as well as room for growth at the middle school level. Then, we could purchase land and build a new high school. By doing this, the district should not have to build any new schools for 10 to 20 years.
We understand that the next question would be, “What’s going to happen to the old Middle School building?” Following State guidelines, we would first have to offer the site to any other State agency. We did that last March when we went out for the original referendum, and there were no other State agencies interested in taking over the site. If that happens, then we have to offer it to our City agency. If and when we get to this point, we would be more than glad to talk to our City Council regarding the site.
In an attempt to meet the deadlines of the Department of Education, we will submit a Certificate of Necessity to go out for a referendum sometime in the upcoming year. If the State can financially support our efforts in going out for a major capital construction referendum, then we will begin having Town Hall meetings to gather input from the community. We need your help in investing in our school district and in our community. Developing a strong school district helps to increase property values; it strengthens the local economy; it allows us to offer jobs to past graduates who move back to this community and eventually build families; and it helps provide a safer community. When the time comes, please consider joining in on our Town Hall meetings; we respect your judgment and value your input.