Board Takes Steps Towards Middle School Decision

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

On Monday, October 19, Milford School District Board of Education discussed a letter submitted by Dr. Phyllis Kohel, Superintendent, to allow her to begin the process of placing the old Middle School building for sale. Dr. Kohel explained that the district was going to have to go out for a building referendum sooner rather than later, but that she felt that the board should make a decision regarding the old Middle School before they put together a plan for a referendum.

“In order to sell the school, there are many steps that must be taken,” Dr. Kohel said. “My plan is to get a committee together over the next few months to begin planning for a construction referendum, but there is no question we must make a decision on the old Middle School. We must submit letters first to all state and local agencies to see if there is any interest in purchasing the school. If there are no takers, we can then sell the building to an interested party. Before we can do that, we must hold several public hearings to determine what the public wants to see happen. It may be that the public wants the building demolished and for us to build on the existing site where the school sits now. It may be they want us to spend the money to renovate it. Personally, I believe the best option is to sell the building under state code, but we must first follow the proper steps.”

If the decision is to sell the building, only the building itself will be sold as the land surrounding the school will remain the property of the district. Dr. Kohel said that when she expressed to local and state agencies that the district was interested in selling the Middle School in 2012, none of the agencies were interested in taking it over. Therefore, she feels that it would probably be an outside commercial entity who may be willing to purchase the building for reuse as something other than a school.

Milford Middle School was built in 1929 and was the original Milford High School. Additional wings were added to the school in the 1940s and 1960s due to expanded enrollment and it became the middle school in the early 1970s. In 2012, the district decided to close the building as it was deemed unsafe for student use. In addition, a review by the State of Delaware found that the building had deteriorated below acceptable standards leading the state to inform the district they would no longer provide funding to maintain the building.

Demolishing the building is estimated to cost almost $2 million and the cost to renovate it for student use has been estimated at over $30 million. If the district chose to renovate or demolish the building, all funds would need to come from local funds which the district does not have. With enrollment increasing each year, Dr. Kohel said that it was critical that a committee be appointed to determine the best way to manage the growing enrollment.

“Our annual report shows that every elementary grade level except fifth grade has increased over the past five years,” Dr. Kohel said. “Only our secondary schools show a decrease in enrollment which we are attempting to address with new programs. Dr. Kevin Dickerson, Assistant Superintendent, has recently applied for grants to add a new Allied Health and a Computer Science pathway at Milford High School. We feel this will help us retain students who may leave Milford for the tech schools. With the new hospital being built over the next few years, an Allied Health pathway will not only encourage students to remain at Milford, but will provide the new hospital with high school graduates who already have some background in the medical field.”

Dr. Kohel was not sure when public hearings would begin regarding the fate of the new high school but said that she was eager to learn what options the public could provide regarding the disposition of the old Middle School building.