MSD Hires Firm to Review Middle School Options

77By Terry Rogers

At a community meeting in April to discuss the fate of the former Milford Middle School, a suggestion was made that Milford School District look into what the cost would be to renovate both that building and the current high school in an effort to reduce overcrowding in classrooms. At the May 16, 2016 school board meeting, Dr. Phyllis Kohel, Superintendent, said that the district had hired Fern-Clendaniel Architects in Lincoln to reevaluate the two schools.

“We are asking them to tell us what it would cost to preserve the façade of the old middle school and renovate the interior rather than demolish the entire building,” Dr. Kohel said. “We want to determine if it is financially viable for us to salvage the old building. I want to make it clear that the firm has not been contracted to do any work other than provide pricing for the renovations. We are not going out to referendum any time soon but we need more data. It could take a month or more to get the information back.”

Dr. Kohel said that the architects would be completing a two-phase project. In the first phase, they will be evaluating concepts for renovating the old Milford Middle School building which would include partial demolition and new additions versus complete demolition of the existing structure and building a completely new school. Once a decision has been made as to what direction the district and community wish to follow, Fern-Clendaniel can do an image study which could be used for a future referendum. The second phase of the project would evaluate concepts for building renovations and additions to expand the cafeteria and add classrooms to the existing high school.

“A number of our community members have asked about the possibility of preserving some part of the original structure of the old middle school,” Dr. Kohel said. “After meeting and discussing a number of issues and possibilities with our legislators and members from the Department of Education, we were told that the state would be open to considering a Certificate of Need to either demo the old building and rebuild or preserving a part of the building because of its historical significance and remodeling. This option was not open to us when we first started this progress in 2013.”

Dr. Kohel said that when they first started looking at the possibility of demolishing the old building, the estimated cost was around $1.8 million. The district added the cost of demolition into the Certificate of Need as they planned to immediately build a new middle school on that site. The district went out for referendum for the project in March 2014 but it was voted down. Dr. Kohel said that the estimate today to demolish the school is $2.2 million. She said the state has agreed to pay 70 percent for the demolition as long as the district maintained ownership of the land for future expansion. This would mean the district’s share for demolishing the middle school would be $660,000.

“We discussed the possibility of simply demolishing the building using reserves, but felt that it would be more cost effective if we could do this in conjunction with a construction project,” Dr. Kohel said. “There is no immediate date set for another referendum project in the near future. If the cost of renovating the school is feasible, the district is certainly in favor of keeping some portion of the original façade, but it will depend on how that can be tied into the building of a new school behind that façade and the cost difference between keeping the original or replicating the look.”

Since the district would prefer to include the cost of the demolition of the building in a construction project, they would need to go out for referendum for construction of a new building if the cost provided by the architect firm is too high to leave the façade and renovate behind it. Dr. Kohel said that school officials hope that the report from the architect will help citizens understand the best solution for the empty middle school building and to relieve significant overcrowding in district schools.

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