a sign on the side of a building

Milford School District outlines need for upcoming referendum

Terry RogersHeadlines, Schools

a sign on the side of a building

The former Milford Middle School property may get new life if a referendum passes in October.

In 2013, Milford Middle School, located at 612 Lakeview Avenue, was permanently closed due to health and safety concerns related to the school environment. Since the closure, the district attempted two referendums to deal with the sealed building. In one referendum, they proposed demolition of the entire building and a new school constructed. In a second, they proposed demolition of the building and a new high school constructed on land that is now the Simpson Crossing development. Both referendums failed

“We created the Milford Middle School Lakeview Property Committee in 2019 in order to begin discussions regarding the property,” Dr Kevin Dickerson, Superintendent, said. “The committee consisted of board members, teachers, parents and members of the community. They held multiple meetings throughout 2019 and into 2020 to get public input into what they wanted to see happen to the building. Through that process, the community overwhelmingly expressed their desire for the historical portion of the school to remain intact and that the building be used for educational purposes.”

When the school was initially closed in 2013, an appraisal was conducted of the building. That appraisal reported that the building could no longer be used as a school due to a rating system used by the state to determine whether they would continue to maintain the building. Dr. Dickerson explained that when the new committee was formed, the decision was made to start with a completely clean slate.

“The committee recommended having the building reevaluated,” Dr. Dickerson said. “We hired an outside consultant and this company completed a thorough inspection. It was determined that the center, historic structure could be salvaged through renovation while other portions of the building should be demolished and replaced with new construction. This, combined with the desire of the community to keep the historic structure, led to the committee’s recommendation of the project that the district proposed to the state. Furthermore, the proposed project was determined to be less costly for the community than constructing completely new and maintains amenities within the building that would not have been part of a fully newly constructed project.”

During the committee meetings, the district focused on long-term impacts for the community and district. After reviewing district needs, the determination was made to construct a school designed for grades five and six on the property in order to place the district in a good position moving forward and alleviate overcrowding at Milford Central Academy as well as the elementary schools.

“All of our schools exceed the 85 percent program capacity formula, according to the Department of Education,” Dr. Dickerson said. “The most concern being the Milford Central Academy which currently houses our sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Our current enrollment is over 1,100 students at Milford Central Academy. The project proposed would relieve space concerns at each building districtwide with room for the extensive growth that we continue to see in our schools and community.” Dr. Dickerson also explained that preserving the older portion of the building would also preserve certain amenities, such as the large gymnasium and auditorium.

According to Dr. Dickerson, the district was fortunate to receive approval for a Certificate of Necessity through the Delaware Department of Education based on the capacity issues throughout the district. On July 19, the Board of Education voted to seek a referendum for the construction project which will cost $57,270,453. The district would pay $14,890,318 with the state paying $42,380,185. Each year the project is delayed could cost an additional five percent. The referendum is scheduled for October 27, 2021.

“It is our understanding that the state has a significant backlog of school construction needs and, if our project does not move forward, we may lose the available funding for the project, further delaying it and exacerbating the overcrowding in our schools,” Dr. Dickerson said. “Also, projected student enrollment and community growth will continue to create capacity and space burdens that will negatively impact educational experiences for our students. If the referendum is passed, the earliest the school would be operational is 2025. If the project is delayed, the totals cost of the project and local cost impact for the community would increase as well.”

The need for an additional school has become critical, Dr. Dickerson explained, and he is grateful for the work the Lakeview Avenue Property Committee put in to develop a solution to the closed school.

“We are very appreciative of the community’s leadership and involvement in the development of the project proposal,” Dr. Dickerson said. “We are fortunate for the excellent school facilities we currently have and are grateful for the community’s support of them through the years. We strongly feel that this project is what is best for serving our students in the future and would be a great asset for the Greater Milford area. We look forward to our community members participating in the referendum vote, and will be respectful of either outcome.”

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