At a recent meeting, Milford School District Board of Education approved designs for the renovation of the former Milford Middle School. The original portion of the building, built in the 1920s, will remain during the renovation while newer wings will be demolished. The interior of the historic section of the building will be remodeled during the process.
“The building is undergoing asbestos abatement now,” Mike Sharp, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, said. “They will start on the first section, then move on to the second, third and fourth. It’s moving right along. They have between 10 and 18 people there each day so there is a lot of progress.”
School board president Jason Miller asked if neighbors in the area should be concerned about the asbestos abatement. Sharp explained that the asbestos is contained within the building and that neighbors should not be concerned.
“We set an amount for square footage, it’s almost like 133,000 square feet and we are below that with what will be presented to you this evening,” Dr. Kevin Dickerson, Superintendent, said. “We thought we were going to be asking for market pressure funds in the future which is additional funding we are allowed for. We thought we had to stay true to the community and to stay where we were with our square feet of this project. In addition, we’re staying true to having 1,000 students be able to occupy the school. As you will see in the designs here tonight, value engineering and really maximizing our classroom space has been a theme throughout to make sure we have space to serve our students.”
Tim Skibicki of BSA+A as well as Tim Metzner of Davis Bowen & Friedel and Dean Johnson of Richard Y. Johnson and Sons provided details on the design of the new school. Since presenting the plans at community meetings in January, the design has not changed significantly. The historical front of the building will remain untouched but will no longer be the front entrance. Instead, students, staff and visitors will enter in what used to be the rear of the building.
“The brick is immaculate,” Skibicki said. “It is really in incredible condition. You just don’t see brick being installed like this anymore, so we’re really excited to be able to have that on a project for a school nowadays. It’s really a treasure and it we hope to bring this building back to its original character almost as if it was the day it was built.
Skibicki explained that the new entrance would be secured, placed along the south side of the academic and gymnasium wing. The track, fields and baseball diamonds will remain, creating a park-like feel to the grounds. A playground will also be added. The existing bus lot will remain with access stretching from School to Kent Place. Skibicki stated that the state authorized a building of 132,900 square feet and that the current plan was about 600 square feet under that.
“That is somewhat unusual that we were able to achieve that and also meet programmatic needs,” Skibicki said. “So, all of the classroom spaces, all of the special needs, all of the administrative student services, all of the office spaces that were desired and required to meet programming are in this building. Since we have not sacrificed anything from a programmatic standpoint and we were able to reuse existing classrooms, reuse the existing multipurpose room, flip a classroom wing and reuse the gymnasium.”
According to Skibicki, DEMA requires some locations in the school have bullet resistant glass and frames which will be incorporated into the design. The auditorium will have telescoping seating so that the room could be used for other programming. In addition, corridors will be widened, there will be handicap ramps as well as three elevators. The design also includes areas where the history of the school can be celebrated with murals or photographs. Colors throughout the building will be maroon and gold. Board member Matt Bucher pointed out that the brick in the newer sections of the building looked different, wondering if that was by design or due to cost.
“It was a design choice and one of the theories when you are working with an historically important building is to make sure that it’s clear where the historical part of the building stops and where your addition starts,” Skibicki said. “So that’s one way to do that. I’m sure you are aware the bricks will depend on the type of bricks that are available, but we would like to see the same size used.
Board member Jean Wylie asked what type of security would exist at the front entrance as it appeared there was an open space that might allow someone to enter the building who should not be there. Skibicki explained that the front entrance has two buzzer-activated entrances, one from the outside and a second into the actual school. He also stated that card swipes would be used to provide additional security. Bucher asked if there was enough room for tractor trailers to pull up to the loading docks from Kent or School Place.
“Part of the design task is to run truck templates to verify turning radius entering and exiting a parking lot safely,” Metzner said. “That’s one thing we will add in for the size trucks and the trash truck access to dumpsters.” Bucher explained he was more concerned with larger tractor trailers who would need to deliver items to the cafeteria and Metzner stated that they would confirm that there was ample space for all size trucks to get on and off the property.
Johnson provided details on preliminary information regarding how much the renovations would cost. Currently, after receiving 22 mock bids, the district is almost $15 million over the amount approved by referendum. This is a 26 percent increase over what the state approved via referendum, but was significantly lower than what other schools, some of which are requesting 65 percent, were requesting in the way of market pressure funds. These are funds set aside by the state to address cost overruns for projects. Because it can take several years for a school project to reach the construction phase, the state uses market pressure funds to offset higher construction costs. The district will still need to cover 26 percent of the $14.8 million overage, but 74 percent may be covered by the state.
“We have been working with the Department of Education throughout the process,” Dr. Sara Hale, Chief Financial Officer, said. “We’ve received preliminary estimates but will not apply for market pressure funds officially until we go out to bid and have actual bids in hand. So, they are aware we are $14 to $16 million over on the project.” Croce explained that if the state approved market pressure funds, the district would need to pay $3 to $4 million to complete the project.
Miller wanted to make it clear to the public that there was no discussion internally about an additional referendum.
“No, sir. I think we’ve been pretty transparent throughout the entire process and pretty clear that we made a commitment to our community, and we’ve been very fiscally responsible up until this point,” Croce said. “We have contingency funds set aside. And while we don’t want to use all of them, we are prepared to use a significant portion to support the completion of the project.”
The board approved the design of the new school unanimously.
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