Growing Hmong American Peace Academy moving forward with new building

A Continuum rendering of HAPA's new 99,000-square-foot high school building.

Last updated on October 2nd, 2020 at 11:41 am

Construction is underway on a new 99,000-square-foot high school building on the Hmong American Peace Academy campus in Milwaukee’s Lindsay Park neighborhood.

The new school building, which is being built on the main campus at 4601 N. 84th St., will include 38 classrooms, a 16,000-square-foot gymnasium, a multipurpose resource center with a student-run café, a museum dedicated to Hmong history and culture, and dedicated college and career resource centers, administrative offices and professional development facilities for teachers and staff.

The expansion was prompted by steady enrollment growth at the Milwaukee Public Schools charter school.

HAPA opened its doors to students grades K-5 in 2004 as Wisconsin’s first Hmong charter school. Since then, it’s grown from 200 students to more than 1,800 students in grades K4-12. School leaders expect to have more than 500 high school students enrolled next fall, and the building will have capacity to serve 900, according to Chris Her-Xiong, founder and executive director of HAPA.

“Today is about more than a building,” Her-Xiong said. “Rather, it is about the promise we are making to our scholars, their families, and our broader community that a high quality education – especially one filled with abundant love, joyfulness, and high expectations – can transform lives and lead the way out of poverty and into a prosperous life of service. By taking the courageous step forward to build a high school designed to best support our scholars academic and extracurricular pursuits, we are underscoring our ambition to become one of the very best schools in Wisconsin.”

Construction on the new facility began this summer and is expected to be completed by August 2021.

VJS Construction Services is the general contractor for the project. Continuum is the architect and planner. Travaux Inc. is the owner’s representative.

The new building will feature various references to Hmong culture, including in the selection of interior materials, finishes and lighting. The hallways and wall spaces will exhibit Hmong artwork, artifacts and traditional style clothing as an extension of the school’s formal cultural museum space.

HAPA hosted a construction progress celebration Thursday morning with Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd, Milwaukee Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump, city of Milwaukee Housing Authority executive director Tony Pérez, and HAPA board chair and Northwestern Mutual executive Jason Handal in attendance.

“All that HAPA has achieved has been done quietly, humbly, and deliberately, through careful planning and the dedicated work of the leadership team, educators, staff, families and of course, our scholars,” said Handal. “Together, we are building a community of peace builders and life-long learners filled with the self-determination to fully realize the blessings of freedom and prosperity their parents and grandparents fought so hard to achieve.”

The project is being funded via bond financing, but Her-Xiong noted the school is interested in pursuing “more meaningful engagement and intentional philanthropy” with partners to support HAPA’s curriculum and activities.

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.

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