Franklin - Less than a month after voters approved spending $33 million to improve Franklin High School, district officials have begun the process to design and build out their vision.
If all goes as planned, early design details will be completed by February or March. The project will culminate in 2015 with the high school getting a broad array of renovations and expansions such as enlarged science spaces, remodeled corridors, a new academic instructional space addition and new main entrance as well as an upgrade in its mechanical systems. Also, the school will add an 850-seat auditorium as well as spaces for its visual and performing arts programs.
Another feature of the improvements will be expanded parking.
To get there, the district has hired two Milwaukee-based firms, Eppstein Uhen as the architect and C. G. Schmidt as the building contractor. Superintendent Steve Patz said representatives from those companies as well as district personnel are part of a core team. The group includes Building and Grounds Manager Mark Cloutier, Business Manager Jim Milzer, Franklin High School Principal Michael Nowak and himself.
"We are soliciting a lot of ideas from the school and the community," Patz said. "There is a lot of work that goes into making sure the plans meet our needs now and in the future. That's why we want to get input from a wider group of people. We are looking long-term. ... We need to make sure that the improvements will hold up over time."
Even before time-tested designs are in order, Patz noted that the plan must be approved by the city.
Though the district sought support from community groups prior to the referendum, Patz said, those same groups will continue to give input. One example is involvement by United Music Parents, a group that has a stake in the district's performing arts capabilities.
"Those groups and other experts will help us make sure that we are putting in the technical pieces like sound and lighting," Patz said. He noted the referendum message put out about the auditorium was that the facility would be a communitywide resource.
The district also is soliciting other end-users, such as teachers, who will be using the expanded academic space.
"The needs for instructional space have really changed," Patz said. "It's not just putting in rows of desks facing a teacher. With technology involved, we have to be able to move around and be flexible in how we use our space. It's no longer a matter of just sit and get."
Infrastructure considerations are equally important, Cloutier said. The school has 11 boilers and several will be replaced.
"The units are so efficient that while we may look at replacing five boilers, we may only need to replace three," he said.
Cloutier said he functions on the core team much like he fits into his district building and grounds role. He looks at the end product as being a legacy, of sorts.
"I can help the project because I know the building and I know what works," he said. "Teachers know what works for them and their students. That's why it's important to have a team where each member is an expert but also understands how what they do fits into other areas."
Dan Davis, C.G. Schmidt's senior vice president, agreed.
"We have a lot of experience in the educational field," Davis said. "Technology has changed how education is delivered, so we have learned how to build with that in mind as well as try to anticipate future technology. That's more difficult. No one can tell us what education is going to look like in 30 years."
Patz said the work to complete the project requires flexibility among those who are involved.
"It is a considerable amount of time," he said. "We have to adjust our working schedules and environment. We may have to put off something we normally have done during the day to an evening or weekend. We are very excited about this. We're glad to be in a position to make it work."
The high school improvements broken up into two parts were approved 51 to 49 percent in the Nov. 6 election. Voters turned down a third part of the referendum, a proposed $15.8 million expansion and renovation to Forest Park Middle School.
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