Centerpiece of freshwater science program will be among features showcased in $45.6 million Port High
School district officials working to design a state-of-the-art school announced Monday that the new Port Washington High School will feature an aquaponics lab as the centerpiece of a freshwater science program that has already attracted the attention of college professors.
The concept of an aquaponics lab was born of suggestions made at community planning meetings and is one of several features of the $45.6 million project presented to the Port Washington-Saukville School Board Monday.
“One of the things we heard in the community meetings is that we need to take better advantage of our proximity to the lake,” Port High Principal Eric Burke said. “This will be a very unique feature of our school.”
The lab, which will be part of a new three-story academic wing built on the west side of the school, will be open to a main hallway — part of an effort to showcase the school’s innovative academic features.
“It will be in an open space that can be seen and touched,” Burke said.
Aquaponics combines aquaculture (the raising of fish) with hydroponics (the growing of plants without soil) in a symbiotic environment in which fish provide an organic food source for plants that in turn filter the water.
Although not large, Port High’s aquaponics lab will be capable of producing 1,000 pounds of fish and plants every year, Burke said.
Supt. Michael Weber said the lab was inspired by Port Washington’s proximity to the largest surface freshwater system on earth and recent community efforts to embrace the city’s location on Lake Michigan, among them an interactive downtown museum, regular visits from Discovery World’s Milwaukee-based tall ship and a sprawling lakefront nature preserve planned for the south side of the city.
“The work the community has been doing with the Exploreum, the Denis Sullivan and a preserve along the shore reminded us of the importance of learning about the lake,” Weber said. “We’re sitting on this large body of freshwater, and I think sometimes we take that for granted.
“An aquaponics lab and our freshwater science program will allow our students to learn about the lake and how to protect it.”
Chris Surfus, the district’s director of curriculum, said plans for the lab have already attracted the attention of educators at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon.
“They are very interested in our freshwater program,” she said. “They’re interested in sharing staff.”
Like the school’s Project Lead the Way facilities, which will include a classroom with glass walls to showcase the program, the aquaponics facility and focus on freshwater science is a reflection of the district’s desire not just to renovate an aging high school but create what will be an essentially new, cutting-edge academic facility on the site of the current school designed to educate generations of students.
“This project has to have a vision for the future,” Burke said, noting that a team of administrators and teachers have toured several new and remodeled schools around the state to glean ideas for an ideal high school.
“Parts of the current building are close to 100 years old. They have served their purpose. Now we have to design a building that will serve our purposes well into the future.”
In addition to a new academic wing, which will concentrate classrooms currently spread throughout the sprawling school in the north end of the building, the project will include the demolition of the oldest part of the school.
In its place, a new main entrance will be built that leads into a two-level commons and open cafeteria with large windows facing west.
Also in the new part of the school will be spacious band and choir rooms adjacent to the auditorium, which will undergo major renovations to include new seating as well as light and sound systems.
A new athletic building constructed on the south side of the school will house a large gym and other athletic facilities, including a fitness room with large windows facing southwest.
The current gym will be retained and used as an auxiliary athletic facility.
Bray Architects is finalizing designs while C.D. Smith, the construction management firm hired to oversee the project, is conducting a cost analysis to ensure the project is within budget, administrators said.
Initial soil borings indicate that the new sections of the school will be able to be built into the hillsides on the west and south sides of the school as planned, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said.
“The six initial borings done of the bluff show good soil with a clay base and no rock, which is good,” he said.
Froemming said 36 more soil borings need to be done and an archeological study will be conducted to ensure construction crews don’t dig up any surprises during the project.
The district plans to seek bids for the project in March and start construction as soon as the weather allows in spring.
Work will begin with the construction of the academic wing and kitchen facilities. When those are completed, students and teachers will move into the classrooms and demolition of the oldest part of the school, slated for 2017, will begin. The current gym will be used as a cafeteria during this phase of the work.
The project is expected to be completed by the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.
Also included in the $49.4 million school improvement plan approved by voters in April is a $3.8 million, 13,000-square-foot addition to Dunwiddie Elementary School.
That work is scheduled to begin in spring with the construction of a new parking lot. Work on the addition to the front of the school, which will include needed classrooms, will begin as soon as the new lot is roughed in and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.