If holding a snake is what it takes

With challenges that engaged families and donations from individuals, Woodview Elementary raises $100,000 for outdoor classroom project

WOODVIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Principal Jill Schwenzen held a boa constrictor named No Feet in November as promised after her students helped secure a $10,000 donation for an outdoor classroom. Schwenzen announced this week that the school has reached its $100,000 fundraising goal. Press file photo


Ozaukee Press staff

Shaved head? Whipped cream pie in the face? Teachers and administrators might agree to the wild ideas suggested by students if they help raise money for a good cause. At Woodview Elementary School in Grafton, Principal Jill Schwenzen got on board.

Last November, during online giving week to raise money for an outdoor classroom, a donation came in. So, Schwenzen ­— as promised, if students worked hard to spread the word and raise $10,000 — “held” a boa constrictor.

Of the 450 students at the school, 41% voted to see their principal hang out with a large snake named No Feet.  Another 38% voted for a skunk and 21% chose an armadillo. To be a good sport, Schwenzen also held the armadillo.

“I was terrified,” Schwenzen said when holding the snake. “I asked the handler from Lake Geneva Safari, ‘Are you sure?’”

But, it was all worth it in the long run. On Monday, July 11, Schwenzen announced the $100,000 fundraising goal was reached.

“I am taken aback by this generosity,” Schwenzen said.

Schwenzen said staff, students and families are grateful to everyone who came forward.

“We went into this thinking we wouldn’t be able to build without a bigger donor and a naming rights situation, but that’s not what happened,” she said. “We had some larger donations from area businesses, but the number of individuals who came together to make this happen is just overwhelming.”

Nearly 30 businesses and hundreds of individuals contributed to the bottom line.

Schwenzen said the pandemic amplified the value of being outside.

“The outdoor space will be set up so that I can do a literacy or science lesson, and our kids will have access to outdoor resources while learning,” she said.

The space is planned to accommodate an entire grade level on stage for performances such as the spring musical. Scouts and other community groups will also be encouraged to utilize the space.  Groundbreaking should happen in the next month or so.

“We want to open this up to families, have games, make a fun opportunity out of it,” she said. “It’s really exciting for everyone.”

Defining moments happen in every vocation, and for someone who works with children, like Schwenzen, this was one.

“In my career, this is one of the things I’m most proud to be part of, this incredible community effort,” she said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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