Panel: Repurpose Old Milford Middle School for education use

The vacant Milford Middle School on Lakeview Avenue has not seen students for full classes in nearly six years due to safety and wellness concerns for all those who walk through its doors.

According to Superintendent Dr. Kevin Dickerson, a number of problems arose before the school bells sounded for the last time years ago. A large ceiling fan once fell in the gymnasium while students were taking a physical education class, for example.

A report later showed that the old Milford Middle School needed significant upgrades to its heating and air conditioning unit. Water damage repairs were also needed throughout the building, he added. Structural concerns such as the condition of the exterior brick masonry, ceiling tile damage, asbestos, maintenance costs and upgrading the school to current codes and ADA compliance would also result in mounting costs, among other problems still found inside the school.

Dr. Dickerson offered a brief history of the old Milford Middle School building during the committee’s first meeting in August. The bulk of the land was deeded to the district for $1 by the Grier family in 1928 to be used specifically as a school. This included about 20 acres of land.

The main part of the building, seen primarily as the main entrance to the school, was built in 1929. Additions were built within a few years to accommodate needs. Over the years, smaller parcels of land were deeded to the district so Milford Middle School could eventually take up the whole block, or about 23.8 acres in total.

After several community-wide attempts to discuss the condition of the school and a path forward fell flat, a committee was created, led by Milford native Bill Strickland, with hopes of brighter days for the Lakeview Avenue property.

Old Milford Middle School

The committee held their first meeting Monday, Aug. 27 at Milford Central Academy which now houses the districts sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.

During the committee’s third meeting held Tuesday, Oct. 30, members were given the opportunity to form a recommendation to be given to the Milford School District’s Board of Education at its next meeting Nov. 19.

The decision was unanimous with those present.

“My feeling is to have a school. I’m just so on the idea of a school. I grew up here and came back to make my life here. I’m retired now and I’m still here,” Frederick Duffy said. “We have some big projects that are going on right now. . . If we do this right, it will benefit us all now and in the future.”

Garrett Grier added, “Fortunately, after hearing what everybody has to say, it’s overwhelming that the public would like to see a school. The public wants it to be a school.”

Mr. Grier explained that more research would be needed to delve deeper into building and funding concerns, along with educational needs within the district.

“In thinking about it, reading the minutes and being at the first meeting, the preponderance of evidence is that a school is what we all want and I think we should investigate that possibility,” Dr. Robert Rescigno said. “We have industry coming and the hospital coming. How do you incorporate all of those things? It seems like everyone wants a school and that’s the first step. . . It’s not going to happen automatically; it’s going to need a lot of work.”

With the decision made to recommend the property maintain an educational focus, the group will begin to look into the possibilities of a student growth study, plans for development, an architectural study and funding for necessary projects, according to Mr. Grier.

He emphasized an appreciation to the public who offered comments, suggestions and concerns over the past two months. A link to send additional comments as they continue the process can be found online at milfordschooldistrict.org under the Our District and Community tabs.

As with other meetings, a public input session was held during Tuesday night’s meeting for continued conversation with the community.

“I am Helen Hollenger. I’m the lady that lives across the street. I also started my teaching career 60 some years ago in that building. I have a few ideas that have not been mentioned yet,” she told the committee.

“I’m very happy that you all are recommending it stay a school. It’s the only property on the west side of Milford that we have for a school; that makes me happy. I’ve heard that the 1940s end of the building is in poor condition. I’ve heard there’s some interest in saving the 1929 building. I’ve heard there’s some interest in having adult education programs. We need to acknowledge the poor condition of the 1940s building.”

She went on to suggest a newer building in that space and renovating the 1929 portion of the property to house the Central Business Office and space for adult education in collaboration with Delaware colleges and universities.

“As for a monetary source, sell the old service station that has been used as the Central Business office for 20 years. It was crowded when I started working there and it still seems to be crowded,” she said, added that starting a Milford School District Foundation like a similar group started recently in the Cape Henlopen School District could also help bring in additional funds.

Others, like Andy Fulton and Jim Purcell, urged the committee to work with local businesses and city government to enhance possible offerings at the property.

“I applaud the committee and the folks here for really making the decision to make that a school,” Mr. Purcell said. “It doesn’t have to be a traditional school. It could be a magnet school, a charter school. We need to look outside of the box. It will attract people to the community. This is an economic development issue for the south of Milford along with the new medical village coming downtown. . . We need to look at grants at the federal level. Also, build those robust business partnerships. We need tie-ins from the larger businesses and other businesses around there. I know this has been a tough ten years. But, we have an action plan together in place. I really feel like this could make a difference.”

The recommendation will be given to the school board during its meeting Nov. 19 at Milford Central Academy at 7 p.m.

“I, too, support the idea of a school,” Mr. Strickland said. “There’s a lot of heavy lifting that’s going to go into the next phase. Feasibility, viability. . . I very much support the school. I have referenced this as an iconic piece of property. It’s iconic to this community. It’s iconic to folks like myself who grew up there, went to school there. This is an important piece of real estate.”

 

Jennifer Antonik writes special reports for the Delaware State News

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment