The fourth addition to the nearly 80-year-old Whitefish Bay High School building was unveiled to the community Sunday at an .
The high school building was opened in 1932, and shortly later in 1949, an addition was constructed for the Memorial Gym and Recreation Center. In 1958, the audtiorium addition was constructed, and in 1968, the field house was added.
With the referendum approved in 2009 and recently completed, the fourth addition – a new music wing – is a major step in the evolution of the 79-year-old building.
"These facilities will continue to well service the community's needs for another 50 years," Whitefish Bay High School Principal Bill Henkle said.
With news this week of Whitefish Bay's and the community as one of the best places to live in the country, Superintendent Mary Gavigan said a large piece of that success is due to the community's support for the schools, as was evidenced in the 2009 referendum.
"This is about the power of a community standing together around quality of public education," she said of the approved referendum.
The unemployment rate was 24 percent when the high school was first built, Whitefish Bay School Board President Kathy Rogers said. While those were challenging times, and the country continues to go through challenging times, Rogers said education has always been a central part of Whitefish Bay's character.
On behalf of the school board, she thanked the community for continuing to support the schools.
"Because of you, the citizens of Whitefish Bay, our commitment to education continues," Rogers said.
The early seeds of the referendum were planted in 2006 with the formation of a facilities study committee. Based on the findings of the committee, the two-part referendum in 2009 called on voters to spend 22.6 million. To date, the district has only borrowed 20 million, Gavigan said.
"The entire project is being done ahead of schedule and under budget, and that is due to the ongoing careful management of the project and the favorable bidding environment we were in," Gavigan said.
The old band and choir rehearsal spaces were converted into two new state-of-the-art science classrooms/labs, replacing two old science classrooms that were "sorely deficient," Henkle said.
One of the old science rooms was converted into a fourth special education classroom, allowing the school to serve the needs of nine students with cognitive disabilities who previously were educated at neighboring high schools. Physically disabled students are now able to navigate the schools with an elevator three times faster than its former speed, and a wheelchair lift has been added to a new 'link' addition connecting the main high school building and the field house.
Other building improvements include a Project Lead the Way engineering classroom, new field house bleachers, remodeled restrooms, renovated locker rooms, remodeled administrative offices, a new fire alarm system, upgrades to core electrical systems, nearly universal WiFi access and other mechanical improvements.
The referendum also included improvements at other district schools, including building additions at and and other renovations at Whitefish Bay Middle School.
Gavigan said the renovations are a success story for the community and students alike.
"We are opening schools this fall with great enthusiasm about the future of Whitefish Bay schools," she said. "We thank you today for your support, your ongoing trust of the school district and for your commitment to the youth of the community."