Thanks to a 2014 referendum supported by 62 percent of Waunakee school district voters, Waunakee fifth- and sixth-graders are attending a brand new, $44.8 million Intermediate School this year.
At the Sept. 15 Waunakee Rotary meeting, Intermediate School Principal Chris Hetzel and Vice Principal Tim Mommaerts described the building’s planning process, its design and the students’ reaction to it.
With school district administrator Randy Guttenberg, several classroom teachers and music, art, phy ed and special education teachers set to planning the new school after the referendum passed.
During bi-weekly meetings, the educators discussed what they wanted in the building’s design and created a large chart.
From there, the architect began drawing designs, which the educators helped to whittle down to the current 2-story building design. The structure is 155,000 square feet.
Some of the important features were lighting and collaborative spaces, Chris said. At the previous intermediate school building, kids were sprawled throughout the hallways trying to work collaboratively.
The building was designed into villages, so special education and any other para educators could visit the village to work with students, rather than students leaving the classroom to meet with them.
When the architect envisioned Waunakee, he saw a patchwork of farms, and the school design, along with the windows, reflect that quilt.
Tim added that the goal was to plan the space in the best way possible and to have it last for the next 30 to 50 years. The educators tried to envision what education would like many years from now.
The new school offers a variety of collaborative working spaces throughout the building.
Villages are comprised of four classrooms, each with two teachers. A breakout room is available for students to work on enrichment and intervention.
All of the furniture is on wheels, providing greater mobility. In the middle of the classrooms, a large collaborative space can fit all four classes. Lockers, restrooms and water fountains are contained within each village, so students can remain in place.
“We love the village concept,” Chris said, adding that it came from the Village of Waunakee.
The school also offers many “green” features, such as the use of geothermal heating and cooling, two green roofs, 60 solar panels and stormwater management to prevent runoff. Large windows throughout the school offer natural lighting, as well.
“What a blessing,” Chris said about the school. “The words that come out of my mouth are ‘awesome’ and ‘amazing.’”
The school is also colorful. The villages themes are earth, wind, fire and sun, and are painted in colors to reflect those.
Now that the school year has begun, Chris and Tim sense a greater calmness in the student body, they said. Students seem to enjoy the flexible work spaces, including the stair area in the center of the building.
The school has an enrollment of 630, but the building can hold 800 and can be added on to in the future.
Greeters: Sept. 22, Patrick Durden and Fritz Durst; Sept. 29, Rex Endres and Gary Epping; Oct. 6, Bill Erickson and Dan Evans; Oct. 13, Allison Feldbruegge and Greg Garton.