What Could Oak Creek High School Expansion Look Like?
One possibility is a ninth-grade center attached to the school.
Now that the decision has been made to (someday) expand Oak Creek High School onto the Civic Center site -- across Knights Way at the corner of Puetz Road and Howell Avenue -- it seems only natural to ask the question, "How might they go about that?"
To be clear, school officials say it's still a ways off in the distance, as it would require a referendum and the district isn't close to beginning a pursuit of that. Plans are in the works to relocate the city hall and the library to the Delphi site, and Fire Station 1 to Centennial Drive, but that's not happening tomorrow, either.
However, one possibility district administrators have floated is constructing a freshman-only building, something I mentioned briefly in the story Monday night and wanted to get back to.
They see it as a way to share staff easily, create a smaller community for ninth-graders to provide a transition into high school, and allow easy access to upper level courses, as the building still would be connected to the high school.
The facility could also hold the Oak Creek-Franklin administrative offices, which would allow the district to sell its current office building on 10th Street. Knights Way would no longer be a through street, but rather used to enter and exit the parking lots of the community center, Army National Guard building and high school.
Now, this is just one idea and I don't expect it will receive close examination or debate for awhile.
But it's an intriguing one, and it could serve as a creative way to handle a difficult problem.
Because say what you will about the land swaps and whether it made sense, the school district and board were in a tricky spot either way. They are faced with a high school that's already at capacity, and based on the numbers in the elementary- and middle-school levels, enrollment will only continue to climb. It's at 2,000 now, and officials project it could reach as high as 3,000.
Whatever option the district chose has its pitfalls.
Building a second high school on Oakwood Road (or anywhere) would mean huge construction and staffing costs. But beyond that, I just have not seen any appetite in Oak Creek for it. The general sense I get it is that a second high school would really divide the community, and unnecessarily so.
In expanding at OCHS, you could potentially create the biggest high school in the entire state of Wisconsin (that title currently belongs to Arrowhead, with 2,253 students, according to the state Department of Public Instruction). It could also be a logistical challenge at the corner of Puetz and Howell, and parking between the community center and high school would certainly have to be worked out.
So maybe a ninth-grade center is a happy medium for a problem that has no easy solution?
We shall see. It's still entirely possible that things could go in another direction. After all, it was only 2009 when the district got the 50 acres on Oakwood from the city (and that stemmed from a lawsuit with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District, which at one point wanted to put a sludge landfill there) for the purpose of building a second high school.
As we've seen, circumstances, ideas, adminstrators and policymakers change. So it's pretty clear the debate on the future of Oak Creek High School is only just beginning.