Brian Roebke photo
Board of Education President Mike Van Eperen speaks at the groundbreaking for the building additions and renovations in the Wrightstown Community School District.
By Brian Roebke
On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, voters in the Wrightstown Community School District approved a $28.7 million referendum question, setting forth a plan to finance the costs of district-wide improvements to all school buildings and grounds including secure entrances and ADA enhancements; site improvements; replacements and upgrades to building systems and infrastructure; an addition and renovations to the elementary school and middle school; and acquisition of related furnishings, fixtures and equipment.
Fast forward one year to Wednesday, April 7, 2021, the district held a groundbreak- ing ceremony for the additions and renovations to all three Wrightstown school buildings.
Board of Education President Mike Van Eperen thanked the taxpayers in the nine municipalities that make up the school district who approved the plan.
“Your support of the district mission is unwavering and for that, we are very thankful,” he said.
He also thanked the district’s building partners for their invaluable guidance with this project that is within budget and everyone can be proud of.
Miron Construction Co., Inc. serves as the construction manager, Bray Architects serves as the architect, and Baird did the financing.
He also thanked the administrators that were involved in the project from the very beginning.
“The administrators, along with their staff, have been instrumental in providing feedback and ideas throughout the process,” Van Eperen said.
Fourth grade students shared their feelings on what it was like to be Wrightstown Strong and sang the song, “Wrightstown Strong.”
Carla Bubolz noted a year ago to the day, the district would have closed its schools because of COVID-19, passed a referendum, reopened its schools in spite of the virus, weathered a pandemic, and completed the scope and design of the project.
“What a year it has been,” she said.
She also thanked the community for its support and willingness to address the building needs in the district.
“We are so grateful for the community’s commitment to helping us with our mission of providing a quality education for every student, and their dedication to our vision of excellence for our students.”
Buboltz said the project will impact every student in the school district because of the safety enhancements, infrastructure upgrades and improvements, and additions and renovations happening throughout the district.
She introduced the project’s architect, Clint Selle of Bray Architects.
“Clint managed to take a vision that was just in our heads and make it work,” she said.
They held weekly meetings that unveiled more beautiful designs and additions. Every week it changed, but Selle continued to work on it through both virtual and eventually in-person meetings.
“It has been such a joy to watch all this take shape,” she said.
Selle thanked the district and community for putting their trust in his firm along with the school board, administration, and staff for the additional time they spent in addition to their regular duties.
“We really want this building to look and feel like Wrightstown, and look and feel how Wrightstown wants their students to learn and how their teachers teach,” he said. “I think we have a beautiful building here.”
Buboltz lauded Craig Uhlen-brauck from Miron Construction Co., Inc. for breathing life into the building design, helping attract an excellent candidate pool of bidders for the project, securing subcontractors who will supply quality and on-time and work as well as their budget work and beginning the pre-construction and staging work.
“It is so exciting to begin the next phase of this project with Miron Construction,” she said.
Uhlenbrauck likes to see kids at groundbreakings, noting that’s what gets him excited to work every day and do things like this for students across the state.
He introduced the on-site superintendent, Dave Vande Voort, who lives a short distance away from the school in Wrightstown.
“The passion that he’s going to take in this project to do something in his home school district is going to mean the world to him,” Uhlenbrauck said. “Our superintendents live for opportunities like this.”
Elementary school work includes nine new classrooms, school and district offices, parking and traffic pattern changes, a new gymnasium, and small group learning spaces.
The addition at the middle school includes a new cafeteria, kitchen, and school offices.
Safety renovations will happen at all three district schools and classroom, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing updates will happen at the elementary and middle school buildings.
Middle School Principal Bob Caelwaerts is excited about the infrastructure work in his building since most of it’s from the original construction and is aging.
“It’s going to make a more comfortable school and it’s really going to help out our maintenance staff in terms of being able to control climate and make things easier to maintain,” he said.
He’s very excited about the kitchen and cafeteria work because that will have far-reaching benefits in the school.
“A big driver of our schedule now is how we have to feed kids and having a new cafeteria allowing us to feed more kids at one time is going to create a lot more flexibility,” he said. “That turns into having a direct impact on the classroom.”
Elementary School Principal Sarah Nelson echoed the comments by Caelwaerts about the infrastructure but added the school really is out of space, with teachers working in closets and class sizes that are a tad larger than they want because there isn’t space for more classes.
“The space will be great for our kids,” she said. “The indoor courtyard that will be in the middle of the school is going to be an awesome place for kids to do learning outside.”
It really does come down to the space they desperately need, not only for the students during the day but the community after school hours.
With many home lots now for sale in the Royal St. Patrick’s area of the village, there will undoubtedly be a need for more space in school buildings.
People are the most important part of any organization, but the structure is also a big part of it and this renovation and addition will make the schools a better place to be.
“Aesthetics are important,” Caelwaerts said. “Like I said before, we’ve done a really great job around here and kudos to the maintenance staff as far as keeping things as up to date as we can with regular budget, but this is an opportunity to give a little shot in the arm to aesthetics and create a beautiful environment for kids, where they’re excited to learn.”
Before the ceremony, there was a moment of silence to remember Russ Bowers, the longtime buildings and grounds director who passed away last fall. During his career, he spent endless hours taking care of the school buildings and grounds and preparing for this project.