by Terry Rogers
Since 2013, the Milford Middle School building located on Lakeview Avenue has remained closed. Initially, it was believed that the school could not be rehabilitated and would need to be demolished. Two referendums requesting funds to demolish the building and construct a new school, either on that property or other property the district would purchase, failed. For more than a year, a committee of staff, members of the community and former educators, led by Bill Strickland, reviewed the status of the building and held public hearings to determine the fate of the historic property.
Overwhelmingly, public opinion revealed that the community wanted the building to remain as a school and that they preferred it not be demolished due to its historic significance. The oldest section of the building, originally used as Milford High School, was built in 1929. An engineering company did a complete review of the building and found that the older portion could be renovated while the newer wings were not salvageable and should be demolished. The company presented a proposed drawing for a new school that would have newly constructed wings while keeping the older, historic section.
Milford School District submitted a Certificate of Necessity to the State of Delaware, a requirement under Delaware regulations, to build a 1,000-student school to house fifth and sixth grades. The state covers 74 percent of the cost of a new school with the district paying the remaining 26 percent. This requires the state to include the project in their Capital Improvements budget. In October 2019, Milford received word that the Certificate was not approved which meant they would need to reapply in 2020.
On Monday, September 21, Milford School District Board of Education voted to submit another Certificate of Necessity to construct the school on the Lakeview Avenue property. Strickland told the board that the recommendation of the Lakeview Property Committee was for a fifth and sixth grade school to help alleviate overcrowding in the elementary schools as well as Milford Central Academy. He also reminded the Board that it was clear from public comment that the community wanted the property to remain a school.
“The costs to build the school are provided to us by the state,” Sara Croce, Chief Financial Officer of Milford School District, said. “When we submitted this in 2019, the estimated project cost was around $53 million. This year, because we were not approved last year, we are resubmitting with a three-year timeline with a total cost of $55.527 million. If the Certificate is approved, we would be able to have two chances at a successful referendum.”
The vote to submit the Certificate of Necessity was passed with a vote of six to zero. Board member Renate Wiley was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting.