MILFORD — If isn’t broke don’t fix it and we want the middle school to stay in Milford. Such was the loud and clear message given at a public meeting Monday evening, Feb. 20, in the Milford School cafeteria.
The meeting was held by the Wawasee Community School Corp. to gather public input. During what was termed a “climate audit” by two retired public school superintendents in the previous school year, although overall the school corporation was deemed good, there were areas found needing to be addressed. One of those was providing more equal opportunities for Wawasee Middle School and Milford Middle School students.
“Part of the reason we are here tonight is an outgrowth of that (climate audit),” said Dr. Tom Edington, WCSC superintendent. It was noted the enrollment in Milford Middle School is 199 students and 506 at Wawasee Middle School. In addition to the large difference in enrollment numbers, WMS has a pool and planetarium, neither of which Milford has. And there are differences in class offerings and clubs.
More specifically, the differences in the middle schools found during the audit included equity of class sizes, differences in student days, division of the grade levels (Milford includes fifth grade in the middle school) and transition of eighth grade students to high school. It was also noted the option should at least be considered to combine the two middle schools into one at WMS because it is the larger building.
There was some confusion among the approximately 30 or so in attendance, including a few teachers. Some seemed unclear on what kind of input they were being asked to provide and whether decisions had already been made by the school corporation.
Rebecca Linnemeier, Wawasee school board president, said the climate audit was taken seriously and more than 1,000 parents, staff and students were interviewed. “There is a reason why there are four of us (board members) here tonight,” she said. “We want to hear what you have to say.”
She noted a few years ago when the fifth grade was added to the middle school at Milford, some parents were upset and said their kids were not ready for middle school. But as time has gone by, people seem to be more in agreement. Also, a lot of effort was put into making the middle schools as equal as possible but because of staffing and enrollment differences only so much can be done.
Many made it clear they want the middle school to remain in Milford. They noted class sizes are small enough for the teachers to know their students. It was also noted the school is a community hub and is important in a small town.
One question was, “are we talking about realigning schools?” Edington said “nothing is off the table” but combining the middle schools “is not a forefront issue.” He had earlier said from a transportation perspective, combining the schools might save money because a couple of teachers would no longer be needed, but it would mean higher transportation costs and more bus miles driven.
It was also asked if more students are added to WMS, would it not overload the school? Edington said 80 percent of school districts in Indiana, including Wawasee, are seeing a gradual decline in enrollment numbers.
Others said they like being able to choose where they send their kids to middle school.
Edington said no timeline has been established for making any decisions, but it is too late now to make decisions for the 2017-18 school year because scheduling has already started. It was noted one option being considered is making Milford Middle School more of an agriculture, home arts and practical arts school and Wawasee Middle School would focus more on technology, robotics and engineering.
Second Public Meeting
A second public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, in the lecture room at Wawasee Middle School. Comments can also be emailed to Edington at [email protected]