The ultimate fate of the 84-year-old Milford Middle School building could be determined by the time school lets out for the summer.
The Milford school board voted unanimously Monday to shutter the city’s oldest operating school house at the conclusion of the current school year.
The decision followed a recommendation by a 40-member committee of parents, business leaders, community members and school staff that examined the building’s deteriorating condition and considered whether to close the school.
What has not been determined, however, is what the district will do with the building once it is no longer in use.
School board president Patrick Emory said this week he believes that decision will be made in the next five months.
“The one option in most people’s minds is demolition, but we don’t want to go down that road,” he said. “Mainly, that’s a costly option, at more than $1 million, and all of that (financial) burden would fall on the school district.”
Emory said the board is hoping to find another organization that might be interested in taking over use of the school, if not ownership.
“If we can save and use the building for another purpose, that’s what we want to do,” he said. “And I’m not talking about a private entity, either. I also can tell you there is no interest in selling the property to a private developer or anything like that.”
Emory said any proposal regarding the future of Milford Middle School would be publicly vetted before the school board makes a final decision.
“I think there are a couple of viable options out there, but we’re not ready to discuss them just yet,” he said.
The board’s vote Monday means students in the sixth through eighth grades will attend Milford Central Academy next year, while students in grades 9 through 12 will attend Milford High School.
Superintendent Phyllis Kohel said that transition will likely mean students at the Central Academy will start their school day at 7:30 a.m. while students at the high school start at 8:30 a.m. to accommodate the increased number of buses heading to the schools’ shared campus on Buccaneer Street.
Kohel said space at the two schools would be tight and could necessitate the use of one modular classroom at the academy and two modules at the high school in the short term.
She and Emory said the district has begun the initial steps toward seeking a referendum that could include building additions at the high school and/or the academy.
Page 2 of 2 - Kohel said she also is working to ensure that no staff members at the middle school or central academy will lose their jobs as a result of the consolidation.
“We’re hoping to keep as many people as possible in the same positions they have now, so there isn’t a lot of turmoil and frustration” she said.
To date, no plans have been made to formally commemorate the Milford Middle School’s closure this spring.
“We haven’t gotten that far yet,” Kohel said. “Our focus has been on getting to this point.”
Assistant Principal Mark McDaniel said the impending closure has left some longtime staff members with a tinge of sadness.
“It doesn’t seem to have affected our sixth graders and our seventh graders would be heading on to the Central Academy anyway so I’m not sure if it matters to them all that much,” he said. “But as for the staff, while we’ve all known this day is coming, some of our teachers have been here for decades, and I think it’s a little sorrowful for them. There’s a lot of historic significance here in this building and to see it go, I think, is going to be difficult for some of us.”
IN OTHER SCHOOL BOARD NEWS
It took two votes and a closed-door meeting, but the Milford school board was able to break a deadlock Monday and hire a new supervisor of building and grounds.
Glen Stevenson, the district’s current athletic director, was publicly named to the post Tuesday. His one-year contract is slated to begin Feb. 28.
Stevenson has served in the position on an interim basis since the death of the district operations director Heinz Retzlaff on Oct. 4. The position has since been downgraded to a supervisor position.
On Monday, the school board was presented with two candidates for the job, but deadlocked in a 4-4 vote over which to hire. At the time, the job candidates were identified only as Candidate A and Candidate B.
Following a closed-door meeting, the school board reconvened and voted 5-2 to hire Candidate B, later identified as Stevenson.
School board members Barry Fry and Paul Faulkner cast the two dissenting votes, while Herman Cohee abstained.