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August 2014

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Boasting more classrooms, a new gym and enhanced arts space, Pewaukee High school sees fruits of 2010 referendum

How do you measure the success of the 2010 Pewaukee High School referendum?

Do you count the number of desks in a new classroom? Do you listen to the screech of a whistle or the scuff of a tennis shoe in a new gymnasium? Do you scrunch your nose when the paint dries on the theater props or somehow smell the face powder in the stage makeup? Does the food taste better when you eat it in a bigger cafeteria?

In November 2010, the Pewaukee School District went to a referendum - for the third time - seeking permission to spend $16.45 million on major improvements to the high school. Voters approved the measure, and the district broke ground in April the following spring. Construction began in earnest in May 2011.

Now, after 20 months working with Eppstein Uhen Architects and Hunzinger Construction Co., the two phases of the project have been completed.

The project leaves behind eight additional classrooms, a new replacement gym, new expanded auditorium (in the old gym) and remodeled fine arts/visual arts areas.

Scope of the project

The first phase saw the completion of the eight new classrooms, where were occupied in December 2011. The new gym, at the southeastern corner of the existing building, was completed in January 2012.

The second phase, recently completed, focused on converting the old gym into an auditorium, expanded with extra rooms for band, choir and storage space. The cafeteria was also expanded at that time, and the visual arts classrooms were remodeled.

"Kudos to the architecture firm, Eppstein Uhen, and the construction firm, Hunzinger, for not only making sure we had a safe environment for the kids but also for phasing the construction so that it wouldn't interfere with learning," said Pewaukee School District Superintendent JoAnne Sternke.

The School District timed the project to take advantage of historically competitive bids and lower overall construction costs. It was recently afforded higher bond ratings (upgraded from A1 to AA2 by Moody's Investors Service), which translated to low financing costs and borrowing rates.

Construction finished on target, and, while it's too early to figure all final costs, the general consensus is that it was a job well done.

"It couldn't have been any better than it turned out, and we're really excited to show it to the community … We have been so fortunate to have that level of community support, and we're excited to share that," said Principal Marty Van Hulle.

The construction projects were also timed, in part, to keep up with student enrollment. The School District has doubled in size since 1983.

The population at the high school has grown over the years, as well, going from 440 in 1968 to 640 in 2000. It currently houses 755 students; enrollment projections anticipate the number of students at the high school to surpass 850 students in 2020, but that number may come sooner than expected.

"We were expecting a 1-percent growth in resident enrollment, but it was closer to 2 percent this year, which is terrific. Steady, slow enrollment growth is a gift - especially when other school districts in the state are experiencing a decline," said Sternke.

An open house is scheduled for Dec. 9 from 1-4 p.m. at the Pewaukee High School, 510 Lake St. Visitors can meet students and staff while taking guided tours. They can watch band, choir and fine art student performances or learn about the new classrooms.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 8, the school will be celebrating the auditorium's grand opening dedication and celebration concert, featuring Streetlife with Warren Wiegratz. The doors open at 6:15; tickets, which are free, can be found at eventbrite.com/event/4559995068#. Call (262) 695-5036 for more information.

"It's tremendous. As our expectations go up, because of the new facilities, student expectations go up, too," Sternke said.

How much is this costing me?

The 2011-12 debt service tax rate increased 15 cents per $1,000 of property value, then will drop back to the 2010-11 level in 2012-13 due to a drop in existing debt payments.

Total project cost: $16.45 million (15 cents per $1,000 of property value)

The owner of a home with an assessed value of $250,000 would pay $37.50 per year, or $3.13 per month.

PHS open house

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9

Where: Pewaukee High School on 510 Lake Street.

What: Meet students and staff while taking guided tours. Watch band, choir and fine art student performances or learn about the new classrooms.

Grand opening dedication

When: 6:15 p.m. Dec. 8

Where: Pewaukee High School new auditorium

What: Grand opening dedication and celebration concert, featuring Streetlife with Warren Wiegratz

Ticket: Free; visit eventbrite.com/event/4559995068#.

For more information: Call (262) 695-5036.

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