Brian Roebke photo
Grade 3 and Grade 4 students from Wrightstown Elementary School sing, “Be the Good,” written and directed by elementary music teacher Logan Gruszynski during the Wrightstown Community School District’s celebration of the completion of additions and renovations to the elementary and middle schools on Saturday morning.
By Brian Roebke
The Wrightstown Community School District celebrated the completion of additions and renovations to the elementary and middle schools on Saturday with a focus on the children who attend school there.
Held in the bus circle located between the schools, the dedication included speeches, songs, and self-guided tours.
School Board President Nicole Gerend said it was a long-awaited day. “What started out as projections, conversations, meetings and finally a passing referendum is what brings us all here today,” she said.
She noted the board of education doesn’t get a chance to thank the taxpayers very often, so she just said, “thank you.”
Voters approved a $28.8 million referendum question in April 2020, just a few weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic began, and most of the design meetings were held virtually.
“Thank you for recognizing that our district is growing and that our schools need to be able to sustain that growth,” Gerend said. “The African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, has never been truer.”
Students Nolan Schaumberg, Jovani Hill, Londyn Petersen, and Emma Collins spoke about what construction meant to them.
Grade 3 and Grade 4 students sang, “Be the Good,” written and directed by elementary music teacher Logan Gruszynski and the Grade 6 choir sang, “Wrightstown Strong,” written by Gruszynski and directed by Lindsay Tippens.
Words of gratitude were spoken by Sarah Nelson, principal of Wrightstown Elementary School, who thought the last three years were a great time to be a Wrightstown Tiger.
She thanked Miron Construction and their wonderful crew, mentioning it was wonderful working with them for the past two years.
“Thank you to our students who were absolutely amazing during the entire construction project,” she added. “The students were curious, excited, and resilient throughout the entire process.”
Nelson said the students love their new space and the learning opportunities that come with it. All students have their own cubby, all grades have their own classroom wing, and the enlarged cafeteria area is “simply amazing.”
She also thanked the staff who went through two crazy years of planning, construction, inconveniences, and moves.
“They have done all of this with patience, grace, and an unending amount of flexibility,” Nelson said.
Their new teaching spaces allow them to have small group instruction, meeting spaces, and technology to hold interactive lessons.
Nelson also thanked parents for their support and belief in what they do as well as the custodial and maintenance staffs for working tirelessly to clean, fix, and hang, and repeat it all over again.
Robert Calewaerts, the principal of Wrightstown Middle School, gave words of appreciation for work done at the school he heads.
He noted most of the work is unseen, since it’s largely hidden behind ceiling tiles because it’s utility related. However, a new office area and enlarged cafeteria have breathed new life into the building.
“It’s invigorated our students and staff and allowed us to get the 2022-23 school year off to a great start,” he said. “It truly feels as if we’re able to turn the page on some of the challenges of the last few years.”
The cafeteria addition means there are now only two lunch periods instead of three, delighting the lunch ladies.
The stage was converted to a dedicated choir and music area along with a major improvement to the technical education area. Just a few years ago, music was held in a tech ed classroom.
“Table saws and falsetto, seems like a match made in heaven,” he quipped.
The school now has a design and STEM area along with a more traditional fabrication space.
“Thank you to our parents as they learned new pickup and dropoff patterns the last few years, thank you to our custodial and maintenance staff for moving, setup, cleaning and recleaning, and thank you also to our students and staff who handled noise and dust and chaos, all while offering kindness and grace,” Caelwaerts added.
Superintendent Carla Buboltz noted the construction project began on April 7, 2021, with students leading the celebration and shining light on the day.
“We wanted to complete the project the same way,” she said. “With our students leading the way.”
Buboltz said the project was all about them, and she encouraged the crowd of several hundred people to give them some applause.
She also gave a shoutout to the entire staff. “Literally in every department in every building, for demonstrating incredible dedication, commitment, and flexibility while the construction was going on,” she said.
She noted how the mission and vision of the students was brought to light.
“What strikes me most about today’s celebration and this construction project is that it exemplifies the importance of our district name, the Wrightstown Community School District,” she said.
Buboltz then asked the students to show the letters that spelled “Community” followed by “thank you” on the other side.
The district was established in 1916, consolidating several one-room schoolhouses into a unified school district complete with a high school.
At that time, County Superin-tendent L.J. Martell said education would better prepare students for problems they would encounter later in life.
“I would say as long as our log cabins have given way to comfortable, roomy, furnace heated and well-lit homes, as traveling on foot and horseback has given way to steam and electric railroads and automobiles, as the horseback rider carrying mail has been replaced by mail service, telegraph, and telephones, so has the dingy, one-room schoolhouse been supplanted by modern school buildings,” Buboltz said in repeating his words.
“His words still ring true 107 years later,” she said.
The consolidation vote passed 144-44, and plans for an elementary/high school were prepared. The $15,000 building, with eight classrooms and a general assembly area, had a staff of three teachers, a principal, and an assistant principal.
The De Pere Journal wrote in 1916 the school was “the handsomest small school building to be seen in miles.
“I think the same could be said today, maybe except for the small school part,” she joked.
Buboltz noted the work marked another milestone in the community support of education in Wrightstown.
She noted the oldest portion of the building was constructed in 1958, and only the gymnasium space remains. Other additions were made in 1972, 1986, and 1996, 1998, and now in 2022.
The middle school was built as a high school in 1963, with remodeling in 1972, 1992, 1994, 2000, and now 2022.
Jessica Ebert of Miron Cons-truction said it was an honor to work on the project and make the dreams become reality.
She thanked Wrightstown administrators for their help. Every time there was a decision to be made, Ebert was impressed that students were at the forefront of the decision.
“Both the elementary school and the middle school have quite the transition,” she said. “However, the school district did a great job of maintaining its history and when you walk into certain spaces, you’ll notice they kept the history of Wrightstown alive within it.”
Clint Selle of Bray Architects, who designed the space, spoke about the great experience he had while working on the project that he hopes matches the vision and future of education in Wrights-town.
“We’re very proud of the results and very excited for you to get inside and see the finished product,” he said.