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A historic moment: Prescott High School opens new building

The main entrance brings visitors and students into a commons area, which is dominated by soaring windows and a polished concrete floor. (Herald photos by Blaze Fugina)1 / 9
The Cardinal Cafe will offer students regular lunch options, a salad bar or an a la carte line. Adjacent to the cafe area is a large concessions stand for events.2 / 9
The courtyard ensures that all classrooms have natural light pouring through them. Eventually, picnic tables will dot the area for students.3 / 9
The family and consumer education classroom, which boasts traditional classroom space as well as kitchen areas, will also be used by community education classes.4 / 9
The metals/small engines lab will house 10 welding stations, a large improvement from the three at the former high school, which were divided by curtains.5 / 9
Crews were busy installing split face rock in the new auditorium, which will seat 569 people once it’s finished.6 / 9
The logo ingrained in the floor of the commons area directly in the front entrance was designed by Julie Gujer, the mother of a Prescott student.7 / 9
A rainbow appeared over the new Prescott High School last weekend. (Photo courtesy of Harold Clement)8 / 9
The Computer Aided Design lab will allow students to work on projects without having to share machines.9 / 9

The day for which many in the Prescott School District have been waiting is almost, finally here. The doors of the new Prescott High School will officially open to students the first day of school Sept. 1.

As the two-story walls of the 147,000-square-foot high school rose off Hwy. 10 west of town, years of planning, hard work and failed attempts followed by success came to fruition. A new high school in Prescott has been years in the making.

Voters approved the referendum question to build a new high school 1,371 to 1,227 in April 2014. The operating expenses for the new high school were approved by just one vote (1,297 to 1,296), and the auditorium question at that time was unsuccessful. However, the auditorium question was revisited at the Feb. 17, 2015 election, where voters approved a new auditorium 951 to 539.


As you enter the main door of the new building, immediately a crest ingrained in the polished concrete floor catches your eye. The artwork was designed by Julie Gujer, the mother of a Prescott student. Her design was chosen in a contest at Prescott Middle School from seven to eight entries.

“Everything will come through this door,” said high school principal Dave Vortherms. “Concerts, sporting events, you name it.”

A feature the administration is proud of is the amount of natural light pouring into the building, a stark contrast to the closed off feel of the former high school (now intermediate school for grades 3-5). In the center is a courtyard, so all interior room have natural light.

“Many of the classrooms at the old high school were in the lower level or the interior,” said school district superintendent Dr. Rick Spicuzza.

To the left of the large commons area is the Cardinal Cafe, where students will eat lunch. They’ll have several options to choose from, including a salad bar, a la carte station and the traditional lunch line.

Vortherms said 160-165 students will be seated in the cafeteria area at a time, which will mean three lunch periods. He would like to get more tables in order to whittle that time down to two lunch periods, possibly next year.

Past the cafeteria/commons area is the 569-seat, 17,205-square-foot auditorium, which will tentatively open in mid-October. Many events are already planned, such as a school play the first week in December, band and choir concerts and more. Currently crews are working to install slate rock in the space, which is not only decorative but helps with sound, Spicuzza said.

“We won’t have to tear down the gym for grade concerts and phy ed won’t lose all their gym space,” said Vortherms.

The finishing of the 569 seats is thanks in part to a $50,000 donation by The Prescott Foundation. If not for that donation, only 500 of the 569 would have been completed at this time. The Prescott Arts Commitment Team is in the process of raising funds for phase one of its campaign, with a goal of $350,000 total for things such as a bandshell and Cloud system, design and acoustic enhancements, projection and audio upgrades, stage lighting, stagecraft equipment, a baby grand piano and more.

As for the high school itself, it’s set up in two rectangles around the main common areas in the center. Academic spaces are identical on each side, with four classrooms configured around a common, collaborative meeting space. Classrooms are interconnected by an office/storage space. Desks are shaped so as to allow many different classroom configurations: all together in a circle; small group settings; or individual.

Staircases on each end of the building, as well as a central stair, allow access to the second story. An elevator is also part of the design.

Other features in the school include:

● A mother’s room for use during events.

● A student work area in the guidance center where students can conduct job and college searches, as required by academic and career planning state statutes.

● A CNA certification classroom with sink.

● The large glass facade overlooking Dexter and Pine streets is home to the media center.

● Voice recognition with video display on Mimio short throw projectors is in each classroom. The video and touch-activated equipment will free up real estate Smartboards took up previously.

● A voice-assisted lanyard worn by teachers will allow for two-way exchanges to come out of speakers in the ceilings.

● Office/storage areas between classrooms will not only give students a place to make up tests in the quiet where teachers can see them, but teachers who may share classrooms will have their own space.

● All lights will be motion-sensored, and rooms will be climate-controlled.

● Unisex bathrooms are available in each wing.

● A keying system will be installed, allowing for teachers to have access to their specific areas and common spaces, eliminating the need to carry keyrings with multiple keys.

● A big family and consumer education lab provides classroom and practical experience space, which will also be available to community education classes.

● Each science class will have its own lab course space, allowing for two-day labs and no tear-down. A fumigator in the physical science labs will prevent experiment smells from wafting through the school, while secure, fire-proof chemical storage is provided in other labs.

● A new multipurpose meeting room will allow for things such as AP testing. Before AP testing was held in a classroom, kicking that class out in the process.

● A new alternative education room will allow for a space for those students to work. Before, the school rented out space at Joy Lutheran Church for alternative education students.

● The library contains an adjacent classroom and lab, which can be used for professional development. A green wall can be used for telecasts and video production classes.

● An upgraded ITV lab with a two-way interface makes it possible for the district to teach classes to other districts, as well as bring in classes not taught onsite at Prescott, such as French, criminal justice, statistics, etc. Prescott teachers, in the past, have in turn taught music theory, Native American studies and World War II history. The room can also be used for EMS and firefighter certifications.

● The ravine on the school district property (which totals 72.912 acres), will eventually provide outdoor classroom opportunities.

● The baseball fields have been seeded and will be in use next year.

● The music area includes a recording studio and other small practice rooms.

● The art room boasts display case windows overlooking the hallway for student projects, as well as a pottery kiln and ample storage.

● The courtyard is surrounded by the commons, the gym and the art room, and will be lined with picnic tables for student seating.

● The Computer Aided Design lab is near the green wall and art rooms, architecture lab and woods lab, allowing for “the configuration of different academic areas coming together to support the arts,” Spicuzza said.

● Students will no longer have to share three-to-one the video editing machines.

● The second story’s flooring material consists of “luxurious vinyl tile,” which helps mute sounds.

● The two-story woods lab is accessible by a large, garage door to the outside, while the metals/small engines lab has 10 welding bays. These spaces will be offered for community use.

Public open house

Mark your calendars for 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19 for an open house, which will include building tours, refreshments and a special celebration ceremony at 7:30 p.m.

Special student-focused activities will be the highlight of that day, which also kicks off Homecoming Week in Prescott.

For more details about Prescott School District, visit

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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