Ho-Chunk Nation Administrative Officials Open District 1 Community Center to the School District of Black River Falls as a Temporary School Space

By Ardith Van Riper

     The Forrest Street Elementary school in Black River Falls was vandalized on August 10.  The damage delays the building’s school year start.  The school houses grades pre-kindergarten through first grade.

     The vandals broke windows and glass.  In addition, fire extinguishers were set off, releasing chemicals corroding metal in the building.

     The school was in the process of being renovated. The estimated finish was before the start of the school year on September 1. 

     The cleanup from Service Master and the subcontractor, CRDN, will take between three to four weeks to ensure they have mitigated all potential damage from the corrosive material.  Until this process is complete, there can be no entry into Forrest Street School.

     This cleanup means the construction halts and can resume work after.  The renovation estimated timeline is the two and a half weeks they lost on their end.  So, the school district plans to have offsite instruction through September.

     On Friday, August 19, Superintendent Shelly Severson and School District of Black River Falls (SDBRF) staff met with Ho-Chunk Nation Administrative officials to tour the District 1 Community Center (D1CC) as a temporary school space.  As a result, SDBRF decided that first-grade students will attend school at the D1CC in the Youth Services wing.

     This wing has a setup similar to a school that includes a gym, lunch room, a fenced-in area in the back for a playground, space for parent drop-off/pick up and buses, and an office area to ensure safety and family communication. 

     SDBRF decided that early childhood, four-year-old kindergarten, and kindergarten students will attend school at Gebhardt School.  Therefore, the Phoenix students, W.I.N.N., and other Gebhardt program students that were scheduled to attend Gebhardt School will be temporarily housed at DICC in the upstairs learning spaces.  This building area has a separate entrance and ensures separation between the first grade and the older students.  This area also has a gym, large learning spaces, and access to instructional technology. 

     As expected, the school district will be providing food services and transportation to both sites.

     The Community Center will be closed during school hours.  However, Ho-Chunk Nation staff will be in the building.

     The Community Center is open for exercise use from 6:00 am to 7:00 am and 3:30 pm to 8:00 pm on school days.

     On Wednesday, August 24, staff and volunteers unloaded the Millis Transfer semi-trailer at D1CC, located at 7261 Warrior Avenue in Black River Falls, and placed materials in temporary locations until other classrooms are prepared for students and staff.

     All Forrest Street students’ first day of school will be Tuesday, September 6.  The School District wants to ensure that their staff has the time to get their classroom spaces established and have enough time to create routines in their new area.  This routine includes travel times, bussing routes, recess schedules, specialist schedules, food service, and establishing procedures for emergency situations. 

     Forrest Street families and students are invited to an Open House on Thursday, September 1, at D1CC and Gebhardt.  The District Wide Open House will still be on Tuesday, August 30, for all district buildings except Forrest Street.