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Lake Country Academy Starting Work On New Center
Students watch through a fence Thursday during the groundbreaking
for the new Center for the Arts, Music and Physical Education Building
at Lake Country Academy. Photo by Bruce Halmo/The Sheboygan Press

Noah B., a sixth-grader at Lake Country Academy, is so thrilled about the construction of the school's new Center for the Arts, Music and Physical Education that he wouldn't mind sticking around on campus a couple more years."I kind of wish I was kind of like in the fourth grade now so I could use it longer," said Noah, who is 12 and lives in Howards Grove. "But it's going to be pretty cool."

Ground was broken for the new $1.8 million facility Thursday afternoon, as a large group, including school officials, teachers, board members and students, all wearing orange hard hats, plunged golden shovels into the soft brown earth to commemorate the start of construction.

Work on the privately funded building will continue through the winter with the anticipated opening by April 30.

Corporate sponsors Johnsonville Sausage, Kohler Co. and a grant from Michael Brotz of the Brotz Family Foundation provided about half of the building cost; the rest came from families of students who attend Lake Country Academy, along with pledges. The capital campaign to raise the money for the 10,000-square-foot addition took about four years.

"It's a beautiful facility," said Carla Koepp, Lake Country Academy administrator and one of the school's founders. "We are fortunate that we have a group of individuals, the founders and the families and children who believe in the educational opportunities here. So that's where the support comes from."

Lake Country Academy is a charter school within the Sheboygan Area School District, but since all the money was raised privately, the center was built without the need for taxpayer dollars in a difficult economy.

"What's so great about this is with our financial situation this would have taken years and years to have this without private funding," said Superintendent Joe Sheehan in praising the effort the school's community made in raising the money.

Carrie Bonk, president of the president of the Lake Country Academy governing board, said the new center will give the school a much better place to stage annual theater shows and dinners and hold gym classes and sports activities. The academy now uses a room measuring about 35 feet square in the basement for those classes and shows, with blue padded walls and an 8-foot ceiling.

"It's very exciting to come to this day and see the actual work going on," Bonk said of the construction

Quasius Construction Inc. won the contract to build the center, and Abacus Architects, designed the project.

Andrew G., an eighth-grader, told the 190 or so students attending an assembly before the groundbreaking that it was difficult for Greg Fitzmaurice, the school's physical education instructor, to devise enough games that could be played in such a small space.

"'Mr. Fitz' is really creative, but can you imagine playing dodge ball or kickball in a space no bigger than this? I thought not," Andrew said.

Fitzmaurice, 54, who has taught PE at Lake Country Academy for six years, said neighboring landowners allowed the school to use outdoor fields for sports, but admitted it was a challenge to come up with activities suitable for the old gym room.

"I'm very excited, it's going to be a great opportunity to expand our curriculum even more than it is now," Fitzmaurice said. "We do a lot of fitness activities in our small space."

The Lake Country Academy Foundation will continue raising money under a Finish the Gym campaign to help equip it with a sound system, bleachers, curtains and theatrical lighting.

"That's what's going to put all the bells and whistles, the lights and sound system, and everything in this gym to make it the best it can be," said Greg Noble, the school's project manager.

The school, which serves pre-kindergarten students through eighth grade, opened in 2001 with 15 children in space at the Ebenezer Church in Sheboygan, moved to another building in fall 2002, and built its current facility in 2005 on 4.5 acres at 4101 Technology Parkway in the Town of Sheboygan.

Fitzmaurice said the students have already taken a keen interest in the initial stages of construction.

"The kids are really looking forward to watching the development of the gym," he said. "That's their main activity. It's hard to keep them focus on learning because they're just watching these builders out here. It's like a great education for them to watch this whole process."

Sheboygan Press Article - Bob Petrie

Sheboygan Area School District Press Release
October 9, 2009