At a recent board meeting, Milford School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Dickerson reported that a member of the Ellendale Town Council had reached out to him about growth in the Ellendale area. Dr. Dickerson explained that the councilperson questioned whether Milford would consider a new school in the southern part of the district due to this growth. Dr. Dickerson provided the board with a chart showing how the district had grown since 2016 based on each year’s September 30th count which determined funding for staff each year.
“You can see here there is a general, really as far as where you see most of our growth is,” Dr. Dickerson said. “The most growth has been in the southern part of the city, the southern part of our district overall. We are seeing significant enrollment here at the high school, so we do have many more students choosing to stay here in the Milford School District, which is a great thing, but we are up to almost 1,280 students here in the high school. It is one of the largest enrolments we’ve had in quite a few years, to be honest with you here.”
Based on the chart provided by Dr. Dickerson, Evelyn I. Morris Early Childhood Center enrollment rose from 391 students in 2016 to 410 in 2022, an increase of almost five percent. Benjamin Banneker Elementary’s enrollment dropped from 526 to 484, a reduction of almost nine percent. Lulu M. Ross Elementary’s enrollment rose from 640 to 668, an increase of over four percent while Mispillion Elementary’s enrollment rose from 559 to 561, an increase of less than one percent. Milford Central Academy’s enrollment rose from 968 to 1,068, an increase of over nine percent while Milford High School’s enrollment rose from 1,007 to 1,279, an increase of over 21 percent.
“We saw a big growth at MCA in 2019,” Dr. Dickerson said. “We were always in the 900 to 1,000 range and then we jumped to 1,056. That large class, the sixth grade class, is now at the high school. Obviously, making sure we have enough space is critical and the Milford Middle School project, which we will give you an update on in just a few moments, will help.”
Dr. Dickerson explained that the member of the Ellendale Town Council who reached out to him suggested the district look at land in that area should they decide an additional school is necessary in the future. The Milford Middle School project will provide space for about 1,000 more students, helping reduce capacity in the elementary schools as well as Milford Central Academy since it is proposed to house fifth and sixth graders. Dr. Dickerson suggested that the district look at boundaries for Banneker, Mispillion and Ross in order to keep their student numbers balanced.
“I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but generally speaking, a bus ride from the Ellendale area to the high school and MCA campuses is roughly how long?” School Board President Jason Miller asked.
Dr. Dickerson stated that Jon LoBiondo, the district Transportation Supervisor was not in attendance, but he would ask him to look into it. He also stated that the ride from the southern part of the district to those campuses were fairly long as were some rides from the northern part of the district to Morris.
“Just a general observation that going forward, I do expect Sussex County to be a bigger piece of the pie for the district,” School board member Matt Bucher said. “On the north side, all the big developments that are approved, going forward, and in lower Kent, are in the greater Frederica area or above and that’s booming as well, but that is somebody else’s issue. So there is very little growth. It’s very stable on the Kent side of the district.”
Dr. Dickerson agreed with Bucher, stating that the district needed to keep a good understanding of what’s going on in Sussex County.
“As far as growth, it is alarming, to use my own words, the amount of growth we’re showing that is projected for the town of Ellendale,” Dr. Dickerson said. “And we’re going to have to try to stay ahead as best we can, which is a very difficult thing to do. So, we have our work cut out for us in that area.”
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