Milton explores future options for current middle school

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Jim Dayton
Monday, March 6, 2017

MILTON—If the Milton School District builds a new high school, it would have no shortage of options for how to fill a potential vacancy at the current middle school.

A new high school would likely mean the current high school would become the district's middle school and hold sixth, seventh and eighth grades, leaving the current middle school vacant. Filling that vacancy wouldn't be difficult—it would just be a matter of finding the best use for the space, District Administrator Tim Schigur said.

School officials have not finalized any future plans for the middle school, which currently hosts seventh and eighth grades at 20 E. Madison Ave. Eventually, the district plans to have an understandable and clearly defined use for the building in case it builds a new high school, Schigur said.

MECAS, the district's alternative high school, would be one logical candidate to fill the vacancy. MECAS classes are currently housed in the district office, which creates a space crunch and scheduling conflicts between students and staff, communications supervisor Jerry Schuetz said.

The middle school could become an “alternative learning center” for MECAS and programs such as Next Step, a credit recovery program. It could house adult learning and pre-K classes, too, Schigur said.

There might also be room for Milton Recreation or the Milton Area Youth Center, he said.

Milton has not narrowed down its list of middle school options and will continue to explore additional possibilities. Only one thing seems certain: The district has no plans to sell or demolish the building, Schigur said.

Getting rid of the middle school would eliminate future space flexibility across the district. If enrollment grew and Milton needed room for overflow classes, the middle school could serve that purpose without having to add another building, he said.

The middle school would not need major upgrades to suit the needs of MECAS or other possible tenants, Schigur said.

Schigur cited Harmony Elementary School as a reason for wanting to preserve the middle school. Years ago, Harmony closed down but later reopened when district enrollment grew, he said.

Insufficient classroom space has been one of the district's main arguments for needing a new high school. In November, an $87 million referendum to construct a new building and make other facility upgrades failed.

The district has since rekindled its referendum talks and could pursue a special election this summer. No date has been scheduled.

The school board is evaluating whether a new high school is needed or if renovations to existing buildings would fit district needs. If the board decides the district needs a new high school, officials would begin finalizing plans for how to use the middle school, Schigur said.

“The middle school will continue to be a programming asset for the district," he said. "It provides space that could address additional growth, could address additional programming options that come along. As new needs come up over time, that gives us the space to address that, whatever those needs might be.”

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