The closing of Milford Middle School has presented the district with numerous challenges, especially finding adequate space for students now studying at Central Academy.

The closing of Milford Middle School has presented the district with numerous challenges, especially finding adequate space for students now studying at Central Academy.

Milford Middle School, a historic 84-year-old building in need of major infrastructure renovations, closed its doors in June, relocating all middle school students to the district’s Central Academy.

With sixth through eighth graders attending classes at Central Academy, a school originally designed for only two grade levels, administration is getting creative in finding classroom space.

Four modular classrooms have been utilized at Central Academy, with an additional four modular classrooms being used at Milford High School to accommodate the addition of the ninth-grade students. Any available rooms in Central Academy, including offices, storage areas and larger closets have been converted into classroom and therapy spaces.

“The classes are large and we’ve turned every available space into a classroom,” said Milford School District Superintendent Phyllis Kohel. “We’re very fortunate to have a very dedicated staff over there who have tracked the students moving from class to class and working as if they had always been in that building. But they are very tight.”

There are currently 1,020 students at Central Academy, not including more than 70 teachers and staff, in a building with a maximum capacity of 1,000 students. Last year, Central Academy saw approximately 668 eighth and ninth grade students, Kohel said.

Ninth graders have been moved to the high school, bringing that building’s student population up to 1,065. The high school’s maximum capacity is 1,190 students.

With more than 2,200 students on campus, it gets a little crowded, but School Resource Officer Joey Melvin said he’s been impressed with how the students have been handling themselves.

“With the population increase, it’s been fantastic,” Melvin said. “It seems very fluid. The middle school culture has come over here.”

Some teachers were saddened to be leaving the historic building, but students and staff alike are doing their best to adapt to the temporary situation.

“The transition was smooth, but we’re definitely out of space,” said Central Academy Principal Tricia Martin. “We’ve been creative and everyone’s been wonderful. We’ve arranged the building the best way we can.”

Martin said that some parents were concerned with younger children being on the same campus as older high school students, but Martin said that altered bus schedules that drop off Academy students before the high school students and keeping the doors between the buildings locked has solved any possible issues that could arise.

“There’s no reason any high-schooler should come over here or vice versa,” she explained. “There’s almost zero need for travel back and forth, they’re two totally separate schools.”

Central Academy hallways are crowded, a handful of teachers have classes larger than 30 students, but teachers and staff are diligently working to escort students to and from lunches to avoid any problems that may arise from having so many students so close together.

While the sixth graders are simply adjusting to the change from elementary schools, other students seem to be handling the new building quite well, said Central Academy Counselor Kristin Hannah. However, for those students with anxiety issues, the overcrowding does pose a problem, she said.

“When you have an overcrowding of students, there tends to be more conflict because they just can’t get away from each other,” Hannah said. “For those [students] with anxiety issues, there’s kids constantly swirling around them, when they’re in the hallways they’re packed because there’s so many students and that makes it more difficult. We have some students who are struggling with that.”

Hannah said there has been more conflict than normal for the beginning of the school year, but nothing completely abnormal.

“I think the conflict comes in when you have 30-plus students in the classroom and making sure they all get what they need. It’s a lot of pressure on the teacher, and if you’re helping one student and another student needs help, they tend to get restless,” Hannah explained. “The teachers do a fantastic job, but it’s not fair to the teachers or the students.”

Students will continue to attend these schools indefinitely until the Department of Education makes a decision on whether or not to approve the district’s certificate of need to build a new middle school, a decision that will not be made until October at the earliest, Kohel said.