by Terry Rogers
On Tuesday, October 30, the committee deciding the fate of the former Milford Middle School building, which has been vacant since 2012, voted to recommend to the Milford School District Board of Education that the building be used for education. This was the first phase in deciding the fate of the building and the committee will now move into the second phase.
“On August 27, we held our first meeting and we received really good input from the public,” Bill Strickland, Chairman of the committee said. “That was critical to this first phase which was to learn what the community wanted for the Lakeview Avenue property.” Strickland then polled the committee members to see what their thoughts were on what should happen with the building. All seven of the members present supported using the building for education. Superintendent Kevin Dickerson abstained from the vote.
Yvette Dennehy, who is also a member of the school board, suggested that the building could be used not only for a school, but possibly as a community center. Margo Azzanesi was not sure what grades should be housed in the building but it was clear to her that the public overwhelmingly wanted the property to remain a school.
“It needs to be a school,” Fred Duffy said. “I am sold on the idea of it remaining a school. I grew up here and I came back to make my life here. I see that as one of the things we need to do but we also need to bring the community together to make this happen. We need to do this right so it will be a benefit to the community.”
Garrett Grier, who will lead the second phase of the project, read a list of items that the public mentioned during the first few meetings should the building remain a school. The list included things like evaluating the building structurally, an environmental evaluation, funding sources, state codes and approvals among others. The meeting was then opened up for additional public comment.
“Another middle school would relieve some overcrowding at MCA and the high school,” Andy Fulton said. “I see that overcrowding every day when I drop my children off and I hear about it every day. My son graduated last year and there is this thing called senior option. The senior option is a wonderful thing for those who work, but what it does is detract from the senior year experience. With a large middle school there, we can reduce the population at the high school and reduce the need for senior option. We also need to look at public and private partnerships to reduce the cost as we move forward for this education center. We need to get City Council involved as that is a partnership that needs to be cultivated and grown.”
Jim Purcell thanked the committee and community members who worked diligently to keep the building an educational setting.
“We are here to educate the whole child and support the entire community,” Purcell said. “I had made mention about combining state services on this location, something that has been done in other districts. I hope you would look at some of these models of success around our state. As far as a school, it doesn’t have to be a traditional school. It can be a magnet school, a charter school, any number of grades, so we need to think outside the box. We need to market this as a great asset to our community.”
Helen Holleger, who was a teacher in Milford School District, suggested that the school also include adult education classes through partnerships with institutes of higher learning. She also suggested that the district sell the current district office and convert part of the old Middle School building into a district office as has been done in other districts.
Strickland explained that the recommendation would be made at the next Board of Education meeting on Monday, November 19.