Since the 1960s, the School District of Wisconsin Dells made only minimal renovations or additions to their aging high school building, creating a need for larger improvements. The district sought to update their facilities, and after failing two consecutive referendums, PRA was hired to conduct a district wide facility study and to assist with the referendum process. After an extensive analysis of educational needs and potential facility updates, we develop multiple options. Ultimately, the community selected the option of a brand new high school. In 2018, a $33 million referendum passed securing funding for a new, state-of-the-art high school for students and the community. The high school includes an expansive central-commons, breakout spaces, collaborative classrooms, multi-functional STEAM spaces, a gymnasium and weight room, auditorium, aquaponics and agricultural lab, a student resource center, and flex spaces for hosting community events.
The new Wisconsin Dells High School includes 209,800 sq. ft. that can accommodate 650 students. As visitors enter the building, they are embraced by a daylit and warm central commons. The raised roof and clerestories flood the space with natural light, promoting inspired learning and a welcoming atmosphere. The commons also function as a cafeteria space and is adjacent to the administrative offices and student resource center. There are additional multi-functional STEAM labs off the commons area that can be set up for both community and school use.
The layout out the building is a unique feature in the design. Each section of the building is divided into wings organized by curriculum and includes smaller breakout spaces for collaboration. There was also careful consideration on how to enhance interactions between programs, which ultimately influenced our design decisions. Because there was potential for collaboration between the agricultural and aquaponics lab and the culinary arts classroom, they were designed to be neighbors. This allows for collaboration between the programs where the herbs and vegetables grown by the agricultural students can be used in lessons for the culinary arts classes. The high school, in essence, created their own farm to table process.
The renovated athletic facilities also offers new opportunities for physical education and the learning community. The new gymnasium includes an indoor walking track and state-of-the-art weight room. The outdoor facilities will include soccer and practice fields, football stadium, and softball and baseball fields, allowing the district to host games on site rather than travel to other areas.