The past few weeks have been divisive for members of the Milton Academy community as their Board of Trustees starts considering closing their Lower School program. In response to this announcement by Head of School Robin Robertson, Milton Academy parents and alumni, along with former faculty, staff and trustees, launched the Milton K-12 Committee. With 50 active volunteers, hundreds of other supporters and over $7.2 million in funds, the Committee is fighting to maintain the prestige and history of Milton Academy as a K-12 preparatory institution. In an e-mail sent out to alumni by Milton parent and alumnus Peter Jeffries ’74 on behalf of the Alumni Committee of miltonK-12.org, the Committee claimed, “While representatives of the board have begun constructive communication with the K-12 Committee, the fact remains that the Lower and Middle Schools are unambiguously at risk.” “One of the primary responsibilities of any Board of Trustees is periodically to evaluate an institution’s strategic direction, and that is what this board is doing,” said Cathleen Everett, Milton’s Director of Communications. Although many in opposition are placing blame on the Upper School administration, it is ultimately the decision of the Board of Trustees and not the administration. Everett said that the board’s most important issues right now are to meet the goals for increasing financial aid, operational costs and faculty salaries, as well as to maintain Milton’s reputation as a place of higher education. The board does not know yet whether or not closing the Lower School, grades K-5, will be a way for the Milton to meet their goals. With rising tuition costs, $29, 550 for day students in the Upper School and $36,775 for boarders, the school is worried that not everyone will be able to afford a Milton education, even with the help of financial aid. Everett emphasized that a definite decision has not been made, but that has not kept the Milton K-12 Committee from creating a website, bumper stickers and buttons to spread the word. Milton K-12 members are also speaking to the Long Range Financial Planning Committee to hopefully convince them that closing the Lower School will forever change the face and reputation of Milton Academy. On the website, alumni and parents are encouraged to subscribe to their regularly updated newsletter, write to trustees and volunteer to help the committee. Students have also taken action by creating groups on Facebook.com titled “Save the Lower School” to inform Milton alumni and students globally of the situation. Many students see the plan as trying to make what they describe as a more “Andover-like” school, meaning an increased number of boarding students. They have also created an organized petition against the issue to be presented to Dr. Robertson. Milton’s Lower School has 28 faculty members and 160 students. The Upper School has more than three times as many students, of whom 50 percent are boarding students from 21 states and 14 countries. Upper School students do not interact with Lower School students unless they are participating in community service. About 85% of the school’s alumni did not attend the Lower School. “While naturally some alumni would rather that the school keep its current structure, most alumni want the Board to preserve the Milton they knew – one with diverse and talented students…in an environment that is friendly and supportive. I don’t think most would want to compromise on those priorities,” Everett continued. There was also a recent initiative to combine the Lower and Middle Schools, but there has been no word from the Board of Trustees as to whether or not the Middle School would be included in this new plan. Although the Lower School faculty is in strong opposition to closing the school, the Upper School faculty members have varied opinions. Everett said that the Upper School faculty appreciates the history of the Lower school and its role in the school community, but the “excellence of the programs are priorities that cannot be compromised.” If the Lower School were eliminated, Milton would be able to rewire their funds and focus on a smaller group of students and faculty.
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