MILFORD — Superintendent of Schools Kevin McIntyre plans to submit a statement of interest to the state next month for either a new high school or a substantial renovation to the town's existing building after receiving authorization to do so from the Select Board.
In each of the past two years, McIntyre has submitted a statement of interest for a new high school to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, citing the current 50-year-old building's age, space constraints and an increased demand for college and career readiness programs.
“We’re asking for this project because of the age of the building and the infrastructure that needs to be replaced, the changing educational needs of the community and our growing student population as well,” McIntyre told Select Board members during their meeting on March 13.
McIntyre's current proposal asks for the replacement, renovation or modernization of school infrastructure and facilities, including the boilers and heating and ventilation systems. The form also asks for “replacement of or addition to obsolete buildings in order to provide a full range of programs consistent with state and approved local requirements.”
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McIntyre said in an interview that some infrastructure within the high school building is only three to five years away from the end of its projected lifetime.
The current Milford High School, at 31 West Fountain St., opened in 1973 and has not received a renovation, according to the MSBA website. The 2022 statement of interest cited overcrowding at the high school, an issue the entire school district is facing, according to the form of vote.
Milford High currently houses 1,325 students in grades 9-12, according to the Superintendent's Office. That's up 15% from five years ago, when it was 1,152.
Principal Josh Otlin said that in response, the school has constructed 14 classrooms in places not meant for that purpose. Otlin said that while none of this is catastrophic, it does negatively impact working conditions for teachers.
In an added nuisance, teachers are also moving between classrooms throughout the day, said Otlin, a 1996 Milford High graduate who has been its principal for six years.
More students who speak other languages
Last year’s statement of interest also cited that 26% of Milford Public Schools' total student population are designated as English learners, up from about 10% in 2015. Majority languages represented in Milford Public Schools include English, Portuguese and Spanish, according to the district's website, with a majority of students born or their parents originating from Brazil and Ecuador.
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The number of students with high needs has also increased, from about 42% in 2015 to 66% in 2021.
Last year’s statement of interest also cited a need for more college and career readiness programs.
“With approximately 25% of our graduates entering the workforce after graduation, and most of those graduates entering low-wages jobs in food service and retail, we are facing an urgent need to rapidly provide students with high quality career-readiness programs that offer pathways to career advancement and prosperity,” the proposal reads.
During the March 13 Select Board meeting, Selectman Michael Walsh praised McIntyre's work, adding that he hoped the superintendent remains in place through the completion of any high school project.
“I hope you will consider to hang in there,” Walsh said. “I know that superintendents come and go, but I hope in my heart you stay here and finish this project.”
After the authorization was unanimously passed, McIntyre said he hopes for a feasibility study to be completed next year.
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The deadline to submit the statement of interest is April 14. The MSBA’s grant program is non-entitlement and competitive, with grants distributed based on need and urgency.
Milford Public Schools previously received a $27 million grant in 2019 for new construction at Woodland Elementary School.
Despite the space problems, Otlin recognized the town of Milford's support, including its Town Meeting approval for upgrades to the science labs valued at $500,000.
"The community has been very supportive with us doing the best we can with that we have," he said.