On Monday, August 18, the Milford School District Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind their vote to seek an operations only referendum in October. At the request of Superintendent Phyllis Kohel, the board voted unanimously to not only seek a $3 million operations referendum, but to allow Dr. Kohel to seek a Certificate of Necessity for a new high school.
“Since the last day of school in 2013-14 until today, enrollment has increased by 124 students,” Dr. Kohel explained. “The University of Delaware study we had done a few years ago predicted we would add 45 students during this period, and we have tripled that. We are reaching or have exceeded capacity on several of our schools.” Dr. Kohel pointed out that Ross Elementary was within 20 students of reaching their capacity but that the school had ten potential registrations that day.
In addition, Dr. Kohel explained that Milford Central Academy (MCA) is 34 students over capacity, requiring the district to add four more modular units. They are working with Dr. David Carter, principal of Milford High School, to see if MCA students could use classrooms in the high school building.
“These numbers show how quickly the district is growing, but funding levels are dropping,” Dr. Kohel said. “We have lost programs due to funding cuts that total $3 million for our district alone, despite the fact that our student count has increased significantly over the past few years. Therefore, we must come up with a plan that will address our school capacity problems without having to come back to the community for more money for at least ten or fifteen years.”
Dr. Kohel said that the district could simply return to the community with the request to replace the old Middle School Building and work harder at getting community support. However, she said that the district had been approached by community members suggesting that they look at tracts of land rather than placing a school on the Middle School property.
“Because we need to take some time to discuss what what should be done with the old Middle School buidling, I would like to ask the board to approve a request to the Department of Education for a Certificate of Necessity for a new high school,” Dr. Kohel said. “Once the new school is built, we would pull the fifth grade from the elementary schools and place them in the Academy with sixth grade. Seventh and eighth grade will then move to the current high school building. This would also allow us to create a STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] program that would keep students from leaving the district for the tech schools.”
Dr. Kohel stressed that the board’s vote did not mean they approved the referendum at this point, but it allows the district to meet the August 31 deadline to hold the referendum in the fall. Dr. Kohel must still get approval from the Department of Education, which she said could deny the request.
“This time we want to look more closely with the community when we seek the referendum,” Dr. Kohel said. “At this time, we plan not to do anything with the old Middle School building, but we have gotten some suggestions from the city and other community members about ideas for using the structure in other ways so that we do not have to tear it down. However, we must do something about our capacity issues and I feel this is the best way for us to go.”