Milford Parents Slam ‘Mega High School’ Proposal

Public forum draws adamant opposition to proposed changes in the district.

Jeanette Walsh, co-president of the John. F. Kennedy School PTO, speaking in opposition to a proposed one high school configuration for Milford Public Schools at a public forum Tuesday, Jan. 28. Credit: Jason Bagley
Jeanette Walsh, co-president of the John. F. Kennedy School PTO, speaking in opposition to a proposed one high school configuration for Milford Public Schools at a public forum Tuesday, Jan. 28. Credit: Jason Bagley
It wasn’t billed as “a mega high school” but that’s how Milford parents and residents received it.

One after another, they took to the lectern at the front of the auditorium at Jonathan Law High School and protested the proposed district reconfiguration.

“If we go to one mega high school, we’re going to lose so much,” said Krista Foster Heard, vice president of the Live Oaks Elementary School PTA.

“Having 2,000 students in one school is not the answer,” said Dolores Hannon.

Big crowd

About 300 people came out Tuesday night to hear what the Long Range Planning Committee – a diverse 31-member group formed last summer to address a sharp decline in student enrollment – had produced in terms of possible district reconfigurations.

Michael Zuba of external consultant Milone & MacBroom led the PowerPoint. He laid out three options: keeping things status quo; building a new high school; or retrofitting Foran High School to hold all the city’s future high schoolers.

The two latter alternatives revert to the previous K-5 arrangement (while adding pre-K), which the committee and public speakers Tuesday generally agreed was necessary to restore parental involvement.

But that’s just about as far as the congeniality went.

Concerns over sports, special needs students

“I will leave if you go to one mega high school,” said Heard, who worried kids would become lost to “other activities” as competition for sports would seemingly become more aggressive under a one high school district.

Staci Godek, president of the Live Oaks Elementary School PTA, said a large school is potentially problematic for special needs students, who may feel uncomfortable around “so many kids.”

A new high school or a retrofitted Foran would house 1,700 to 1,900 students. Currently, there are 910 students at Foran and 968 at Law.

Milford’s two high schools are located on opposite sides of the city and one speaker said that’s reason enough to keep the current arrangement intact.

“We have this wonderful system,” said Tim Chaucer, who is the director of the Milford Marine Institute and a member of the Milford Preservation Trust.

New high school alternative

It would take 10 years to construct a new high school at a cost of about $240 million. Under this arrangement, Foran and Law would transition to middle schools, each holding about 650 to 750 students.

Under this plan, an elementary school consolidation (pre-K-5) would keep open: East Shore, Harborside, West Shore, Mathewson, Orange Ave and Orchard Hills. The proposal closes Live Oaks, JFK, Calf Pen, Meadowside and Pumpkin Delight.

An additional $17.8 million would be needed for gyms and minor renovations at Mathewson, Orange Ave and Orchard Hills.

The proposed 331,000-square-foot new high school would require 50 to 55 acres of land, which could be tough to come by in Milford.

“Land is a true, finite resource in Milford,” Zuba, the consultant, said at an earlier committee meeting.

Retrofitting Foran

The cost to retrofit Foran to accommodate an additional 800 to 1,000 students as the sole high school in the district is about $56 million.

With this option, Law and East Shore would take on the middle schoolers and the elementary school consolidation (again, pre-K-5) would keep open all the schools in the new high school alternative, plus Meadowside.

An additional $23.8 million would be needed for gyms and minor renovations at Mathewson, Meadowside, Orange Ave and Orchard Hills.

Status quo ‘taxing on the system in the long-term’

Zuba said enrollment is down 1,200 students compared to nearly a decade ago and the district is expected to lose another 12 percent over the next five years.

Enrollment decline is a national trend that relates to falling birth rates, especially in affluent areas, he said after the forum.

But the options presented Tuesday represent more than a review of projected enrollment. The committee also took “an exhaustive look” at operational costs and required upgrades at school facilities, Zuba said.

And what they found was that keeping things status quo would prove “taxing on the system in the long-term,” he said.

Any proposed changes wouldn’t take effect until the 2015-16 school year. The committee is expected to formally present its recommendations to the full Milford Board of Education in March.
Michael Brown February 17, 2014 at 12:55 PM
Here is a more reasoned discussion of the Long Range Planning Committee proposal. http://www.milfordmirror.com/12522/school-solution-may-not-make-everyone-happy/ By the way. The Long Range Planning Committee meetings are *open to the public* and have been since last June. Plus, the Committee *has not published a report yet* and has not even finished meeting. So get a grip everyone.
Concerned Parent February 17, 2014 at 01:34 PM
@Michael Brown, I believe you need to extend some credit to those commenting on this topic. We are all aware of the LRPC meetings taking place since last year. We know that it is open to the public (w/out the opportunity for any public comment). And we know what the discussions items entailed. We know this already. What you do not know is the reason for our concern. If you listened and read all the documents posted by the LRPC, or should I say Milone and MacBrown, you would see that the contents of every document focuses solely on facilities. There has been no documentation publish surrounding the academic merit of any of the options presented. The fact of the matter is that people are concerned because the LRPC is being led by these consultants. Every piece of documentation provided to date does not reflect the impact to the students, only the impact to the facilities. I actually learned quite a bit during the last meeting, the consultants are very thorough. I learned about state reimbursements and the approach to model our schools to keep in step with the Magnet Schools. The consultants used skewed survey results to pitch this to the parents who are on the committee because let be brutally honest here, everyone else is part of the school board and city. Bottom line, and everyone knows it, is that a design has been defined and the school board is simply going through the steps needed to justify their decision. It's extremely calculating and immoral.
Gary Tobin February 17, 2014 at 10:08 PM
Concern Parent - Just in case you didn't see it on the other page - I am in absolute disbelief that Milford's Education Administrators (one being the former Mayor of Milford) would actually alter or change the purpose (charge) in which the Board of Education approved the Committee’s purpose (charge). The consultant group is contracted to gather data 5-10 years forward regarding the decline in enrollment in Milford Public Schools, evaluate the school buildings and present their findings to the committee and come up with recommendations. I have watch and listen to Mrs. Casey aggressively not approve the administration changing an agreement and I would think we will hear and see this again if this is the case. Do you really think the Administration would or could hire Milone and MacBrown to manipulate and deceive the Chairman of the BOE and two other BOE members, the two Milford Aldermen, 4 school principals, two teachers, Alberta Jagoe and 13 parents? Do you think they can pull that off? Maybe the BOE voted and changed the Administration’s purpose for the Long Range Plan Committee and for them to include a Magnet School in their recommendations. But I would think that would be boarding unethical if they did vote and not allow the public to be informed on this. I did read in the minutes, Nov. 19th, which are by Dr. Feser, where Mr. Cummings was asked by one of the consultants to talk about his experience with the Bridgeport Magnet school. “He said it is very impressive. It has an open campus, aesthetically pleasing, “student center feel”, Lap-tops, wireless, wind turbine, etc. (IT, Physical Science, total State of the Art). He talked about the “competition” for our students and asked how will we respond to it”. The end of his statement sounded like a challenge for the committee. That is a bit curious that Magnet schools where not in the data or minutes until the night of the public forum and now there are no more public forums for parents, community and students to ask questions about it. I’ve been attending and watching BOE meetings for a long time and when the Administration wants to pursue or look into something such as the Security Resources Officers it required a vote of the BOE to approve the administration to research such matters. So I would think such a large project or proposal as a New Magnet School the Milford BOE would have to approve the Administration to research such matter. Do you think maybe we all missed a meeting when the Administration proposed such request and the BOE voted yes?
Tim Chaucer February 22, 2014 at 10:02 AM
I fear that the magnet school option is to "buy off" certain critics of this totally unnecessary and costly $240 million dollar new high school. Four years ago the community, despite strong objections, was BULLIED into a K-2, 3-5, reconfiguration. Knowing they erred, the Administration is willing to correct that mistake , however, that error becomes the smokescreen to reconfigure again: ONE HIGH SCHOOL and close Calf Pen, Live Oaks, and Pumpkin Delight and perhaps Orchard Hills. The decision has been made. The real question: Who is behind it? Milford Progress? They are part of the local Chamber of Commerce They wanted to develop Fowler Field, remember? Someone or several members of the Administration are doing the bidding of the Chamber; it all has little to do with education. Shortage of land? Sell the public school lands. Fool the public with talk of declining enrollment and magnet schools. have the stren
Tim Chaucer February 22, 2014 at 10:24 AM
We can only hope and pray that our current Board members have the courage and wisdom to stand up to those doing the bidding of monetary interests which has very little to do with the education of our children in a ONCE RESPECTED PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM .


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