The Milford School Board is considering a new direction regarding a pending fall referendum, with the possible option of building a new high school added to a requested current expense tax increase.

The Milford School Board is considering a new direction regarding a pending fall referendum, and once again, it doesn’t address the possible demolition or rebuilding of the Milford Middle School.

During a regular monthly meeting on Aug. 18, board members voted to rescind last month’s vote to pursue a referendum requesting a $3 million current expense tax increase.

In addition to rescinding the recent vote, board members also voted to allow Milford School District Superintendent Phyllis Kohel to talk with state officials about the possibility of building a new high school instead of addressing the former Milford Middle School.

Board members voted for Kohel to begin exploring the option, dependent upon the state’s approval and public input regarding the new plan of action. The Delaware Office of Management and Budget also would have to approve the nearly $1-million increase to the current expense tax request.

“We are growing … but we’re getting less funding every year,” Kohel said during the meeting. “I thought about the direction we were going in … and it just didn’t make sense to me.”

In March, voters rejected a two-fold referendum that requested an additional $2.1 million in current expense tax funding, as well as roughly $12 million in local funding for the demolition and reconstruction of the middle school, which has been closed since June 2013.

In July, Kohel and the board proposed separating the requests and only pursuing the funds needed to offset the district’s deficit spending. However, Kohel said the board should reconsider a referendum combining the operations and construction requests.

In addition to a lack of funding, Kohel said an increasing student population is creating a dire need for more space.

With the Milford Middle School closed, Milford Central Academy is over capacity with students relocated from the middle school. An increase in student enrollment also is filling up the elementary schools, which Kohel said she expects to be over capacity in the next few years.

Instead of demolishing and rebuilding the middle school, Kohel said the district has been presented with numerous offers to purchase land, which provide a location for a brand-new high school. She proposed that building a new high school would free up space at the elementary schools, Central Academy and allow the district to build a STEM wing to offer additional courses for high school students.

Three properties are under consideration, dependent upon review from the Office of State Planning Coordination include about 90 acres on Northeast 10th Street, about 190 acres across from Redner’s Warehouse Markets on U.S. Route 113 and more than 90 acres on Del. Route 1, which was suggested by Milford’s city manager.

No appraisals will be available until the Office of State Planning Coordination’s Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) completes a feasibility study, but Kohel said she expects building a new high school will cost more than the demolition and rebuild of the Milford Middle School.

“I don’t know for sure, but I would feel very safe in saying that because we have to purchase land instead of using existing land, there would be a cost difference which would be higher than the original $44 million we went out for before,” Kohel said.

If the district pursues that option, Kohel said the Central Academy could house fifth- and sixth-grade students and the current high school building could house seventh- and eighth-grade students.

“This time around, we’re going to approach the referendum with a new perspective,” Kohel said. “We’re not saying this is the route we’re taking or that this is a decision that’s been made.”