School District of Rhinelander seeks tech ed updates at RHS, JWMS
The building trades classroom at Rhinelander High School is one of the tech ed spaces that Superintendent Eric Burke said is too small for current needs. Star Journal Photo
By Eileen Persike, Editor
RHINELANDER – Some of the equipment in Rhinelander High School’s tech ed classrooms was built in the 1950s. That means that it was new when today’s students’ grandparents or great-grandparents took a shop class at the school.
That’s one tradition Superintendent Eric Burke would like to end.
Burke invited representatives of educational research firm School Perceptions to speak to the board of education at this week’s regular meeting. Burke is proposing the board hire the company at a cost of $9,300 to survey the community to gauge public support for upgrading the tech ed department at RHS and to upgrade the tech ed area plus make other changes at James Williams Middle School.
“We don’t have enough classes to meet the demands,” Burke told the Star Journal. “There are a lot of kids that want these classes. Next year, we were lucky to hire a teacher right out of Stout and will be able to add a full-time position to help fill that need.”
Administrators toured eight school districts to get ideas of how to best expand and update the tech ed area and also met with local trades industry partners to ask what they need, what skills are they looking for in graduates.
“What we saw in other schools was more natural light, that’s what a lot of companies have gone to – they’re not seen as dark and dirty,” Burke said. “So that’s what we’re envisioning.”
A remodel, he added, would include updating equipment, creating more space; redesigning the area. The cost for including everything on the administration’s wish list would be around $26 million. Retired Rhinelander physician Lee Swank has promised $500,000 toward updating the tech ed area of the school.
Burke’s plan would be to survey the community in the fall, get the results in November, and if the board decides to move forward, the project would go to referendum in spring 2021.
Burke said he wants the community to know there is a need for improved tech ed facilities. If the board chooses to go to referendum, administrators will make community presentations, host tours and open community sessions.
“If they’re interested, there’s no reason they would not know what the project is and why we’re asking for it,” said Burke. “We’ll have opportunities for people to see the facilities and ask questions.”
Superior Diesel recently presented SDR, through the Rhinelander Community Foundation, $10,000 that is earmarked for upgrades of the school’s fab lab.