‘It has a college campus feel’

That’s how PW-S School Supt. Michael Weber described the essentially new Port High School, which is on track to be substantially complete in December

Standing in the new Port Washington High School lower cafeteria, (from left) Port Washington Ald. Paul Neumyer and School Board members Sara and Brian McCutcheon looked out the south facing, floor-to-ceiling windows during a tour Monday. Photo by Bill Schanen IV

Looking down into the lower cafeteria from the commons. The upper cafeteria is to the left. Photo by Bill Schanen IV

The spacious band room (right) is to be completed by the time students return to school on Sept. 4. Photo by Bill Schanen IV

The auditorium (below), which is now referred to as the school’s performing arts center, has been gutted. New seats, acoustic wall and ceiling panels and sound, lighting and rigging systems are to be installed. Photo by Bill Schanen IV

Although the oldest part of the school was demolished to make way for new construction, the original school entrance in the performing arts center hallway, which dates to 1931, has been preserved. Photo by Bill Schanen IV

Looking down into the arena-style gym from the upper cafeteria and commons area. Photo by Bill Schanen IV

From the outside, the front of the high school has a new, modern look. The band room is to the left. The new entrance is on the right. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff

When Port Washington High School students return for classes in a month, they may wonder if they’re in the right place.

“The openness, the natural light, the flow of traffic — it has a college campus feel to it,” Port Washington-Saukville School Supt. Michael Weber said, referring to what essentially will be a new high school on the hilltop site it has occupied since 1931.

The $45.6 million project won’t be completely finished when classes begin on Tuesday, Sept. 4, but students will get a good idea of what the new home of the Pirates will look like. 

The courtyard, as well as spacious band and choir rooms, will be ready for students.

Also completed will be the kitchen, which means the school will no longer have to lease space from St. John XXIII Catholic School to prepare food, although lunch will still be served in a temporary cafeteria in the academic wing for a few months.

In December, most major construction is to be completed and students will have access to a new main entrance, offices, commons, upper and lower cafeterias with south-facing, floor-to-ceiling windows and an arena-style gym.

While that part of the project is on schedule, the renovation of the auditorium is moving along more quickly than expected and could be completed in time to host holiday concerts in December, Weber said.

“You may remember we said we were going to gut the auditorium,” he told School Board members and guests who on Monday toured the school, including what is now a shell of an auditorium. “Well, it’s definitely gutted.”

New seats, acoustic wall and ceiling panels, lighting, sound and rigging systems and a new stage will be installed.

The auditorium will also get a new name — performing arts center — to reflect other additions. The former choir and band rooms, which are adjacent to the main performance area, will be renovated to create dressing rooms and wardrobe storage areas, as well as a prop workshop and storage area and a black box theater for rehearsals and small performances.

“We also plan to give the outside of the building a little face-lift,” Weber said.

From the performing arts center at the far east end of the school, a hallway will lead past the music classrooms to the commons and upper cafeteria, which will serve as a gathering space during concerts and athletic events. This area will also provide views looking down into the new gym, which is built into the hill and thus is one floor below the main level. 

From December to the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, which is when all work is scheduled to be completed, final renovations will be the focus of the project.

The existing gym, which is being retained as an auxiliary sports facility, will be reduced in size to allow for additional classroom space and consist of a gymnastics facility and one competition court.

The temporary wrestling room, which is in a prominent location along a hallway leading to the new academic wing, will be renovated to create Project Lead the Way classrooms and a conference room.

And in the academic wing, the temporary cafeteria will be converted to its intended use — foreign language classrooms.

High school work began in spring 2016 with the construction of a three-story academic wing built into the hill on the west side of the school. That phase of the project was completed in April 2017, and the classrooms were used by students and teachers last school year.

The project is part of a $49.4 million school improvement initiative approved by voters in a 2015 referendum. It included $3.8 million for an addition to Dunwiddie Elementary School.


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