Old school with sunny new name
Work on former Menekaunee School progressing
Friday, June 21, 2013 7:33 PM
MARINETTE - A new school year will bring a new name to the former Menekaunee School. Work is under way on the Sunrise Early Learning Center, designed specifically for 4K, kindergarten and early childhood students.
Ken Lesperance (back) and Scott MacIntyre hang a board at the Sunrise Early Learning Center (former Menekaunee School) Wednesday in Marinette.
"We wanted a center that could really focus on the academic, social and emotional needs of our youngest students," said school principal Justine Braatz.
The former elementary school has been closed for about a decade. The doors shut about two years after a major renovation due to declining enrollment. A problem with the furnace a while back resulted in smoke damage to the building. The insurance company had the facility professionally cleaned and when the job was finished, school officials took immediate notice of its fine condition.
Brainstorming sessions led to the early learning center concept. The plan - along with a budget of $704,000 - were approved by the school board in April. There's currently a small army of about 20 people painting, roofing, installing carpets and more to be ready to begin the new school year.
Braatz, a 17-year veteran of the Marinette School District, has spent the past three years as assistant principal at the middle school. She jumped at the opportunity to head up the learning center. She said the idea of having all the teachers for one age group under one roof has many advantages, including the ability to easily share resources and bounce ideas off one another.
Some of the concepts that will be used seem so practical but could easily be overlooked. For example, the library will be filled with age-specific books but they won't be placed on shelves like you would normally find in a library. The books will all face outward so the kids can see the covers rather than the bindings.
"It's just going to be a wonderful, literacy rich environment for these 4- and 5-year olds," said Braatz. "I'm so excited I can't even tell you."
The learning center is expected to attract a lot of attention from other districts in how it's set up and progresses. The district is providing the school state-of-the-art technology, including laptops for the teachers.
"We'll have interactive whiteboards in every room, we will have a cart with iPads, so it's going to be pretty high tech," said Braatz. "We're excited."
By the time school starts this fall there will be 15 teachers and some 150 kindergarten students. Add to that 60 morning and 60 afternoon 4K students, school psychologist, Title 1 teacher and gym, art and music instructors. The school will be bustling.
The parking lot is being expanded and new playground equipment has been donated by the Ryan and Lori Hmielewski family. Braatz said she's encouraged with the efforts because she's already been approached by several parents wanting to establish a Parent/Teacher Organization at the school.
"It's so exciting," she said. "People have been stopping by and peeking in."
Everyone will have a chance to see the learning center during an open house which is being planned for sometime in August.