Costly Repairs Force Historic Milford School to Close - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Costly Repairs Force Historic Milford School to Close

Posted: Updated: Feb 12, 2013 12:39 PM EST
(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

MILFORD, Del.- The oldest school house in Milford will soon shut its doors for good.

What is now the middle school was once Milford High School. It was a place where, back in 1954, 11 African-American students made history. They were called the Milford Eleven. They were the first to attend an all-white school.

"Integration for the state of Delaware took off at Milford High," said Charles Hammond, Chair of the Milford Museum.

Hammond wasn't a member of that class but says he knows what transpired during that time.

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court, under the ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education, outlawed segregation in public schools.

An old photo at the museum depicts some of that history.

It was Sept. 27, 1954. Three of the Milford Eleven - Irene Pettyjohn, Lillian Simmons, and Edna Turner leave school, with smiles on their faces while a police officer stands guard watching them safely enter a car.

The story of the Milford Eleven was written by Orlando Camp and Ed Kee. Camp was one of the students who attended the school during that time.

"Education is a thing that should be available to everybody and as a result of that, they were denied that opportunity. All they wanted was an opportunity to go to school," said Hammond.

Milford School Superintendent Phyllis Kohel said the building is too costly to repair.

"Just to get it to where we would want it to be to put our students in it for next year would be about $400,000," Kohel said.

Kohel said the Department of Education has what is called a facilities index. The index is used to determine whether or not it's cost effective to repair a building or to replace a building. That index is .50.

"If you are under .50, then it is cost effective for the state to allow us to apply for major cap money and do major renovations. We are at a .78. Basically we're about 2/10ths away from the building being condemned. It just makes sense at this point to do what is inevitable and that is to close the building," said Kohel.

Kohel said the school board understands the emotional tie to the building and has reached out the National Registry.

"Just because you're on the National Registry doesn't mean you're saving any money through that building because you still have to maintain it, and bring it up to code and if you expect people to be able to walk through the building," Kohel said.

Hammond said before a decision is made to possibly tear it down, something should be done to preserve its historical significance.

"I think we need to take another look at that and just not say we're going to demolish this school without some consideration to those who went through the struggle to make it possible for others just to attend Milford High School," Hammond said.

Milford Middle School is now a building that will forever be known as the first integrated school house in the area.

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