Milford Beacon
  • Residents question boarded-up Milford Middle School

  • The Milford School District recently took a proactive approach to security at the Milford Middle School by boarding up the first floor of the building, a decision made without public notice or discussion.
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  • The Milford School District recently took a proactive approach to security at the Milford Middle School by boarding up the first floor of the building, a decision made without public notice or discussion.
    This decision, which some are saying has ulterior motives, has garnered some disapproval from local residents and council members, which was voiced during the Board of Education’s regular monthly meeting on Monday night.
    “This is not a view the residents of Milford want to see,” said Patti Persia, who lives on School Place near Lakeview Avenue. Persia, who is also a real estate agent and founding member of the Milford Historical Preservation Group, said she is concerned that a boarded building will not only decrease property values, but that homeowners weren’t contacted about the decision.
    Milford School District Superintendent Phyllis Kohel said the school was boarded up about three weeks ago, a decision made by board members outside of public session. Kohel said that recent break-ins and late night alarm calls sparked the decision to board up the building.
    “We decided for liability purposes that the best thing to do was to board it up,” Kohel explained.
    According to Milford Police Department spokesman Cpl. Robert Masten, police have responded to eight alarms since January 2014, and one documented break-in during which an unidentified suspect allegedly entered the building, turned on some lights and kicked out a glass door.
    Kohel cited a second break-in during which nothing was damaged, but lights were turned on, as a reason for safety concerns and the decision to board up the school.
    “We didn’t do it to upset anybody or for retribution of anything. We simply did it for our own safety and liability reasons,” said Kohel in an effort to debunk a rumor that the boarded up school was a result of the failed referendum.
    But both Ward 2 City Councilmen Allen S. “Skip” Pikus and Dirk Gleysteen think differently.
    “I’m somewhat disappointed that the Milford School District boarded up the middle school. I think it doesn’t send a good message to the people of the Milford School District,” Pikus said. “They probably have their own reason for boarding it up, maybe to make people think twice if they do go to another referendum.”
    Gleysteen agreed.
    “I’m disappointed,” he said. “I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe it’s a direct result of the referendum not passing.”
    Regardless of the suspected motivation, Kohel and Milford School District Board of Education President Marvin Schelhouse were clear on Monday night that the boards are a safety precaution, not a political move.
    Page 2 of 2 - “This is where we’ve come over time,” Schelhouse said during the meeting. “I’d love to see this school preserved, renovated, but the state has not worked with us on it. We’re faced right now with many difficult decisions.”
    However, local resident Jamie Burk, who is also the chairman of the planning commission, said that boarding up a building won’t eliminate people from getting inside, especially if there are still access points.
    “I’m just waiting for the graffiti to start,” he said, arguing that the district should have considered leaving the external cameras at the middle school instead of relocating them to Benjamin Banneker Elementary School, a move that was made in 2013.
    “They could have either beefed up the security system or not stripped down the security system and removed the cameras. Even if the camera wasn’t plugged in or monitored, it’s a deterrent,” he said. “When you’re removing cameras, you’re taking away the deterrent.”
    The board did not directly respond to Burk’s suggestion, or Persia’s suggestions to board the windows from the inside or turn the boards into a high school art project, but said they would consider the comments and suggestions before the next regularly scheduled meeting on June 23.
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