How Construction Will Impact Student Life at MHS


Renderings sourced from Eppstein Uhen Architects

Pictured above, the MHS Performing Arts Center (PAC) will be among the first areas of the school to undergo remodeling. For the 2021-22 school year, performances will have to be relocated but are expected to progress as normal otherwise.

Alexa Williams

Beginning April 2020, MHS will begin the transformation into the MCPASD High School campus, costing an estimated $138.9 million and spanning two years. With the largest freshman class on record and students fighting for space in the halls, construction is long overdue. Despite this, many students have expressed concern over the extent to which this project will impact life and learning at MHS.

Given MCPASD’s past experience, students have nothing to fear. MCPASD is once again working with Findorff, the construction firm used on the 2012 referendum to remodel Kromrey Middle School. During this project, Kromrey students experienced minimal disruption to the school day. The MHS construction project is expected to progress in a similar manner.

“I don’t think students will notice a great deal . . . It’ll be a little harder to access certain spots in the building because you might have to walk more. There’s going to be limited access into the North for the next year and to the South in the second year, for example,” says Perry Hibner, MCPASD Director of Communications.

Some areas, including the Performing Arts Center, will be closed as early as August 2020. The school is currently working to find alternative performance venues, considering options such as the Overture Center and UW-Madison’s Hamel Music Center. Teaching functions, however, are not expected to change beyond classroom relocation during periods of limited access. 

One notable concern of students and staff is how construction will affect parking. Going into construction planning, the district’s goal was to net-zero parking stalls. In reality, MHS will gain forty to fifty stalls. Early plans for a parking ramp were considered but abandoned when estimated to cost $25,000 per stall. At the end of construction, parking will mirror the current situation, with a change that may enable increased parking access. With construction extending northwards, the Clark Street Community School parking lot will be located closer to the MHS building with an additional monitored entrance, similar to the one on Bristol Street. The district hopes this will push more students to take advantage of this pre-existing yet underutilized parking area.

“There’s no way for us to have a parking stall for every student . . . Will there be a spot for every teacher? No, and there isn’t one right now, but we’re going to continue to work with our partners in the area to try to make sure that if they can’t park on-site here that they’re not parking very far away,” says Hibner.

Recognizing frustration surrounding limited parking access, MHS administration is looking to engage students in alternate options. These options include expanding non-vehicular commutes, such as walking and biking, and encouraging carpooling. A potential avenue for students wishing to drive could involve busing students in from the largely unused parking lots at the soccer fields on Airport Road.

While the Class of 2023, this year’s current freshman class, will be able to see the new building in its entirety, current upperclassmen have expressed frustration at enduring construction without the payoff of accessing the new building.

“At the end of the day, I get it. There’s no way to get the facility done in time so that everybody who is here right now could [see it]. We want people to see the facility, but there’s just no way for us to finish in a way that this year’s current junior class would be able to take classes in the new addition,” says Hibner.

Amid uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, MCPASD will continue to observe and respond to the ongoing global health crisis. For now, construction is expected to progress as expected, breaking ground in April 2020 and finishing August 2023.