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Gallery Walks give community look into plans for new elementary schools

As the time nears to break ground and start construction on new elementary schools in Portage, district officials offered the community a look at what’s to come.


Construction will begin on Central Elementary this summer and Haverhill Elementary this fall, said Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Johnny Edwards.


Community Gallery Walks hosted in early December gave families and neighbors the opportunity to see floor plans and even sample fabrics and other materials that will make up the new schools, Edwards said.


About 175 people attended the Gallery Walks, including a couple who witnessed the construction of the current Central Elementary in 1969.


Central Elementary Gallery Walk

Both schools will be open for the first day of school in fall 2025, Edwards said. The District will break ground on the new Central in June 2023 and on Haverhill in September 2023. Students at both schools will continue to attend classes in their current buildings and won’t be displaced during construction, Edwards said.


As for the designs of Central and Haverhill, Edwards said both schools will incorporate the character of the neighborhoods. Families should expect to see a “Central Park” theme for the new Central Elementary and nature-inspired elements at Haverhill.


Unlike previously constructed 12th Street and Lake Center elementaries – which are prototypes of each other – Haverhill and Central will have individual designs, Edwards said.


But one thing both schools will incorporate is air conditioning, Edwards said. The ability to cool the buildings down in the fall and spring was a top priority for staff and students.


Haverhill Elementary Gallery Walk

Flexibility of the spaces was another priority for the new construction. Unlike older elementary buildings that allow space for only rows of desks, the new buildings will accommodate an array of seating options and utilize common spaces for group learning.


“We want the schools to be future ready, meaning they can last the next half century,” Edwards said. “We know that traditional classroom design or the way that most old schools are built is not the way of the future. We wanted to think about school design that would permit collaboration and small group work.”

Edwards said gathering input from students, staff and the community was an important step in the development of the new schools. The opinions of students were especially valuable, he said.


“That was really affirming to me – to hear kids say this looks really cool and a place that they want to be.”
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