TCR/Chad Smith
Residents of the community had an opportunity to tour the new school on Saturday, March 4. Shown are several members of the public on a tour led by superintendent Chuck Ehler. Notice the view from the windows and the natural light.
TCR/Chad Smith Residents of the community had an opportunity to tour the new school on Saturday, March 4. Shown are several members of the public on a tour led by superintendent Chuck Ehler. Notice the view from the windows and the natural light.
“Good morning and welcome.” With those words, Rushford-Peterson School Superintendent Chuck Ehler welcomed a group of district residents and business owners to a Saturday morning tour of the new school facility.

After giving a quick tip-of-the-cap to Rushford Peterson Valley Chamber executive coordinator Jen Hengel for spearheading the tour, the attendees split into three groups of 25 to 30 people each and took off in different directions.

“This will actually be one of the last tours that we’ll have,” Ehler explained, “because they’re going to be doing a lot of the finishing work. Once they start that, we’ll be excluded from the building until they get everything finalized.”

Ehler told the group to be aware of three things as they toured the new facility. When the school design team worked with the architect, three things stood out. The design team wanted to emphasize a lot of natural light, the functionality of the building, and how people can move about the facility with ease.

The first stop was right in the gymnasium itself. “This is the main gymnasium,” Ehler said, “The coaches’ offices are right there along the wall. The open doors along the base of the other walls are storage units. Another thing the design team stressed was a walking track that you can make your way around the entire length of the gymnasium.”

Then it was on to the new theater where the groups stood on the stage and looked out over the audience area. Several people on the tour expressed surprise when Ehler said the theater would hold a capacity of 415 people when it’s finished.

The next area was the gross motor/wrestling room. “This room will serve multiple purposes,” Ehler said.

“We call this the gross motor room and the wrestling room. This floor will have what they call a sport court on it, so when you walk on it, the surface will compress a bit. It’s a soft surface so kids can come in for PE class and the wrestling team can utilize it too. In the spring, we’ll have both the baseball and softball batting cages in here.”

The fitness and weight room was located on the second floor near the gymnasium and right off the walking track. It’ll be open to the public as well as the students.

People will have to purchase a fob to unlock the electronic door that leads into the weight room from the outside. The fitness/ weight room has a lot of natural light with a whole wall of windows to let people take in the view of the valley.

The group moved through the commons area on the second floor, which will feature booths for people to be able to sit and check out what’s happening in the gymnasium.

On the first floor below the upper commons area, work crews are getting the front entrance framed up. Ehler was quick to point out that those doors will lock every day at 8:15 a.m., and anyone who wants to get into the school will need to get permission from the office.

As the tour continued, the group moved through the metal shop and wood shop areas. After walking through the music, vocal and instrumental rooms, it was on to the kitchen area, which will feature enough room for two serving lines in a horseshoe shape.

“The walk-in coolers come in this week so that’ll be exciting,” Ehler added.

“Oh wow, it’s huge,” was the comment overheard as the group filed into the elementary/middle school gymnasium. It’ll have bleachers on one side, and the capacity to seat 500 people. The gym happens to be right next to a set of double doors kids can exit after dropping off their kitchen trays and head out to the playground.

The group then walked through the elementary and middle school wing before climbing a set of stairs to the high school wing.

The ceilings in the high school wing are a little bit unique, and Ehler cautioned people that it might throw off the equilibrium of a few people walking into those rooms for the first time.

“The ceilings are mostly in, and some of you are going to be a little psyched out,” Ehler said, “and you’re going to say, ‘Why are the ceilings at an angle?’ With the high ceilings on one end going to the front of the classroom, it lets light come in all the way to the edge of the classroom. If the ceiling was a normal height with both sides even, the light only gets part way into the classroom.”

One of the people taking the weekend tour was a new Rushford resident. Alisa Gullickson will be a substitute teacher for the Rushford-Peterson School District after moving to Rushford in December. She’s already looking forward to working in the new building.

“It’s very neat,” Gullickson said. “I’m super excited as a new substitute teacher here. I’m from West Salem and subbed in the La Crosse area regularly. I live right down the road from the school, so this is really nice.”

Ehler said he was pleased with the turnout over the weekend. It’s hard for the public to get in during the week because of the construction, so hosting the event on the weekend seemed to be a good fit.

“We didn’t want to bring people in until they could get a feel for how the building is laid out,” Ehler noted, “and see some of the functionality of the building, so we had to hold them off.

“I stressed the three things the design team focused on to the people on tour, which was natural light, functionality and the quality of construction. We’re very blessed as all three of those things have been met.”

Ehler called it rewarding to see how things are progressing. Workers are getting set to do the final products and are ready to do the final checklist on each classroom, flooring will go in, and he said that they’re ready for that to move forward. He said June 1 (staff move-in date) will be here before they know it.

A lot of natural lighting was one of the most noticeable parts of the new facility. Ehler said it was a point of emphasis in part because the old school facility had areas that didn’t quite have enough light, including some of the classrooms.

“The site itself lends to the natural beauty,” he added. “As you look out from the upper classrooms, you can see the whole valley, and there will never be a day when there’s a bad view out those windows.

“The library/learning commons (features a lot of windows and natural light) is going to be a central location on the second floor with our students and staff gravitating to it because it’s an attractive setting with a great view.”

Chamber executive director Hengel was the first one to approach Ehler about a tour for chamber members. Hengel said Ehler was the one who suggested opening it up to the public at large. She called it a great opportunity to see the progress of the new school.

“It’s a great chance to get people in here and get them excited about what’s coming,” Hengel said. “We have people from each of the three cities (Rushford, Rushford Village and Peterson) that are meeting to talk about collaborative marketing (with the school).

“They’re talking about how to showcase our area for newcomers to bring their families here, and I think this is one of the pieces of that.”

Hengel added, “Personally, I’m impressed and excited about what this means for the community.”