‘Innovate’ wing opens
Construction continues at W-F High School
By Angie Landsverk
When Weyauwega-Fremont High School students returned for the second semester of the school year, a new space greeted them.
The school’s Innovate STEAM Wing opened on Jan. 22.
The wing includes four new classrooms for chemistry, physics, biology and agriscience, as well as a collaborative space.
“What I’ve heard from the kids, overall, is they absolutely love the space. It was like the big wow factor Monday morning,” said Jeremy Schroeder, the school’s middle and high school principal.
As students left school on Jan. 18, paper still covered windows leading into the new wing.
The next day was Records Day, and teachers moved items from their old classrooms to their new ones.
“I’m just excited the students have a real science room for physics now. The ventilation hoods will be great for our soldering work, and the kids will really appreciate having room to spread out when we are doing group activities,” said Mike Hansen, who teaches physics.
Students like Louis Knecht noticed how much more space the classrooms have.
The senior is taking physics this semester and said he likes the new area.
District Administrator Scott Bleck said physics is a hands-on class.
As a result, the classroom is equipped with electrical drops, ready when students need to use electric tools.
The vented system on the back wall will remove fumes when students are soldering, Schroeder said.
The new agriscience classroom has a fish lab and animal lab.
Sandy Dykes teaches agriscience and describes her new space as “awesome.”
She said the animal lab has room for small and large animals, including a way to easily get large animals into the space.
In the fish lab, tilapia and perch are being raised, with plans to add a minnow tank.
“We eventually want to do aquaponics, which is fish on the bottom and plants on the top,” Dykes.
She said the system could grow greens for the high school’s kitchen.
The new space will result in more opportunities for students.
Both the agriscience and biology classrooms will have direct access to the greenhouse.
Nick Winn teaches biology, and his classroom is next door to the agriscience classroom.
The greenhouse will be a full stand-alone one. The school’s old greenhouse was a lean to.
Schroeder said staff brought up the idea of having both classrooms be able to access the greenhouse.
He said that was a great idea.
Lynn Ponto’s chemistry classroom is in the new wing as well.
“With this new building project, I now have a room with a large lab area, with sinks that are large enough for my varied activities and have hot water,” she said. “The new facilities are designed with forward thinking having collaboration areas that students can work on group projects and an industrial look and feel that promotes the use of technology in the classrooms.”
She plans to utilize that area to promote her new Water Forensics Lab, donated by Greg Neuschafer, to do genuine research with her students and give them experiences she said will give them a step ahead of their future competition.
When Ponto started teaching at the high school in 1992, she did so on a cart, teaching in other teachers’ rooms during their prep periods.
Within a year, she had her own room, but it was a history room with no running water or lab area, she said.
“I then moved to a math room that within a year had one sink added to it, so I had running water,” Ponto said. “Within the next few years, the chemistry position opened up, and I was finally teaching science in a science room with a lab area. Storage was limited, and the teaching and lab area were short on space.”
The new wing also includes a collaborative space between the science classrooms and the technical education area.
Remodeling is underway in the tech ed area, where the physics classroom was located.
That classroom will become space for the school’s Project Lead the Way program, Bleck said.
The entire wing has an industrial look and feel, including an exposed ceiling.
A former outside brick wall is now an interior wall.
There is new furniture in the collaborative space and the classrooms.
“The whole idea is flexibility, so we have a variety of learning spaces and opportunities for students. Almost everything is on casts, so it can be moved,” Schroeder said.
Monitors are being added in the collaborative space so students sitting there may plug into them.
On a recent morning, Joan Radtke sat at one of the tables.
The WF junior said she likes the lighting in the space, finding it a relaxing area in which to work.
When students use the space or walk through it, they get a glimpse of the classrooms on both sides of it.
The idea behind all the windows is to create intrigue and interest about what is taking place in the classrooms, Schroeder said.
Maybe students will take classes they may have not have otherwise considered, he said.
The new wing is about 85 percent complete.
Expected to arrive any day were 75-inch interactive, touch-screen televisions for the science classrooms, removing the need for projectors and smart boards in them, Bleck said.
During spring break, an epoxy finish will be put on the floor of the entire wing, he said.
The new classrooms are the first part of the school’s building and improvement project open to students.
The $20.6 million project also includes the addition of a 400-seat auditorium, multipurpose gym and fitness area, new school entry, HVAC updates and remodeling throughout the high school.
The gym is scheduled to be completed in July and the auditorium next fall.
The high school office area is under construction, so its offices are temporarily by the middle school office.
The old science rooms are being remodeled.
The former chemistry room will be an additional room for art, and the old biology room will become a math classroom, Bleck said.
Schroeder said the old agriscience room will become the scene shop for the auditorium, a place to construct sets for the school’s plays and musicals.
In that area of the school, the old at-risk room is becoming the choir room.
That means band and choir will be next to each other, with both tying right into the auditorium, he said.
Miron Construction is the construction manager for the overall project.
“They’ve been very good to work with,” Schroeder said. “They’ve been so accommodating and helpful.”
On days when work is expected to be loud, contractors begin at 5 a.m., so they have it done before the students arrive, he said.
Schroeder said this year’s class schedule was built to accommodate the construction schedule and minimize disruption for the students.
Bleck said the students have been respectful while different areas of the high school are under construction.
“It’s just very exciting,” Schroeder said of the opening of the Innovate STEAM Wing. “This is a good taste of what everything is going to look like.”