The Elcho school addition has been in use since the start of the school year – and parts even longer than that – but that didn’t stop a substantial crowd for turning out for formal dedication ceremonies Saturday.
Close to 100 people filled the school’s new theater, located just off the main entrance and commons area, and dozens took the tours of the new and remodeled areas including the fieldhouse, technical education, computer classrooms, child care and that spacious commons and fitness center.
“I want to formally dedicate this new facility to the students and community of the Elcho school district,” Administrator Bill Fisher said to close the program. “There has been a generational message that has been sent and it’s not a complicated one. We care.”
Fisher noted that the class of 2019 has decided to hold its commencement exercise in the new fieldhouse.
“There will be new traditions, new celebrations and new memories made as a result of the facility that this community has made possible,” he stressed.
The program opened with the national anthem performed by members of the choir, welcoming words and a long list of thank yous from Fisher and four guest speakers.
“Thank you for this amazing school,” sophomore Cole Kupfer, the student speaker for the 40-minute program, said, adding the improved facilities have created a new sense of pride in the school. “I can’t begin to tell you how amazing this building is. It has changed our lives.”
Dave Visser has served as school board president through the lengthy planning, referendum and building process.
“It has been a long process,” he admitted, “Thank you to all who voted for the project and got the ball rolling.”
He echoed Fisher’s remarks that the successful project illustrates the community’s pride in its school and its students.
“I hope this building becomes a centerpiece for the area,” he said.
And he had special, emotional words of thanks for Fisher.
“Your time and leadership really showed,” he said.
In her remarks, Rep. Mary Felzkowski recalled coming to Elcho as a member of the Rural Schools Task Force shortly after her election in 2012.
“Small rural schools like Elcho and White Lake are near and dear to my heart,” she said. “You guys did a great job.”
Rural schools are the heart of a community, she said, and vital to creating a vibrant, well-educated workforce able to compete anywhere. Elcho voters understand that responsibility.
“It’s a ‘we can get it done’ attitude,” she said.
Lisa Haefs, who graduated from Elcho, was charged with reviewing the history of the district, dating back to 1887, through the 1921 high school, 1940 elementary school demolished last summer, and the various projects that created the footprint of today.
She shared a few memories and mentioned the collages of graduates that line the hallway alongside the school gymnasium, dating from the 1940s to now.
“With this dedication, the story that is the Elcho school, one that stretches in an unwavering line from the late 1800s through the 20th century and today, enters a new chapter,” she said. “The pages containing the names and memories of many of us here today are full, but the future ones are blank. It is up to us to write the next chapter through our support of our children, our teachers and our school. Let’s make sure it remains a best-seller.”
The referendum was approved by a 57 to 43 percent margin in November 2016 and provided the funding for a new gymnasium and fitness center, demolition and replacement of the 1940 elementary wing and other improvements.
Ground was broken five months later.
In addition to removing the elementary building, the project moved the main office and entrance from the south to north end of the school complex; added a fieldhouse with a seating capacity of 1,200; and revamp existing locker rooms and music and band areas. The existing library was downsized, with a portion turned over to an early childhood center, accessible from a separate southside entrance.
Source: Antigo Daily Journal