Groundbreaking for School Upgrade Project
Groundbreaking ceremony honors community, staff and
students for helping to achieve facilities upgrade project
By Ted Pennekamp
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Wednesday beginning at noon near the northwest corner of the high school for the Prairie du Chien School District’s facilities upgrade project. The project has recently gotten underway with excavating and the construction of footings on the school’s east side. The addition on the east side of the high school will be 31,170 square feet and will house three gymnasiums and a greenhouse. Excavation began on Thursday on the west side of the high school for the new 27,960-square-foot auditorium.
The architect for the facilities upgrade project is HSR Associates of La Crosse. The general contractor is Olympic Builders of Holmen.
“Good afternoon and welcome. On behalf of the entire board, I want to thank you for joining with us today as we mark a new beginning for Prairie du Chien Area Schools,” said School Board President Christine Panka in part of her opening speech. “This academic year, the Prairie du Chien School celebrates 130 years of public education and for those 130 years, our community has been a part of an ongoing process of planning for our students.”
Panka thanked the community and the members of the school board for their support of the $18.9 million school facilities upgrade project, which was approved by referendum in April of 2016.
“As board members, we represent those who have elected us to our seat on the board of education. Public education is a vital part of a community’s infrastructure and I would like to thank the citizens of the communities that comprise the Prairie du Chien Area School District because without your commitment to providing a high quality education to our children, we would not be here today,” said Panka. “Whether you believe that healthy vibrant schools create healthy vibrant communities or the other way around, what I know for certain is that you can’t have one without the other and I’m grateful to be a part of a community that has both. Thank you for joining us today as we celebrate our community, our students and our future!”
Superintendent Drew Johnson said that the four main goals of the school district for the past 10 years have now been accomplished with the realization of the facilities upgrade project. The goals were to get the district’s budget and finances back on track, to maintain and expand programs for the students, to increase student achievement and to modernize the facilities.
“This (the facilities upgrade) is the capstone on the cake,” said Johnson. “With the addition of these new facilities, we will be on par with any district in the state.”
Mike Thompson, the deputy state superintendent, praised the values of the community in accomplishing the facilities upgrade. Thompson said the school district has shown steady achievement trends and cited Bluff View Intermediate School for being awarded a “School of Recognition” for five consecutive years, a feat not easily accomplished. He praised the students, staff and parents of Prairie du Chien.
“This community has made a great investment,” said Thompson.
“I want to thank all of the young people,” said the Director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards John Ashley, who praised the community, the district staff and the students for their achievements. “I challenge you to come back in 20 years and see how things are going. The young people here are on a trajectory towards success.”
The high school vocal jazz group Out to Lunch kicked off the groundbreaking ceremony with a nice rendition of “The National Anthem,” followed by Louis Armstrong's hit “What A Wonderful World.”
Following the groundbreaking, a meet and greet was held in the high school which offered punch and cookies, commemorative gifts, a student art exhibit in the northwest hall and another performance by Out to Lunch.