Milwaukee Academy of Science celebrates completion of $1.7 million gym

Milwaukee Academy of Science's new roughly 7,000-square-foot gym.

Milwaukee Academy of Science staff and supporters celebrated on Thursday the opening of the school’s new $1.7 million gymnasium, the second of a two-phased expansion of its near west side campus.

The new 6,700-square-foot Todd Wehr Gymnasium, named after the project’s largest funder, provides more space for the school’s athletic programs. Before the expansion, its students in grades K4-12 used the same gym and athletic teams had to use classrooms and storage closets for locker rooms.

In the fall, MAS celebrated the completion of a building expansion that added classrooms, offices and STEAM labs to its campus. The expansion projects will allow the school to increase its enrollment by 250 students. Today, it has 1,250 students and it plans to grow to enrollment to 1,500 by 2024.

The school is located at 2000 W. Kilbourn Ave., which was formerly Milwaukee Hospital and Sinai Samaritan Medical Center. Prior to the expansion, it occupied only the first two floors of the building.

Anthony McHenry, chief executive officer of the MAS, stressed the importance of the school – which serves a 96% economically disadvantaged population and for the past three years has “exceeded expectations” on state report cards – being able to accommodate more students.

“This is not about a desire to grow. This is not about our desire to serve more kids,” McHenry said. “This is about a need. This is about a need that we’re all well aware of – it’s the need to serve more kids in the city of Milwaukee with a quality education.”

Among Milwaukee’s publicly funded schools — including charter, private voucher and Milwaukee Public Schools — 30% are considered low quality, according to state report cards. Another 34% meet expectations, and 36% are considered high quality.

MAS has experienced record enrollment each of the past six years, and for the past three the school has had a waitlist for at least 10 grades.

The school was established in 2000 as a public charter school focused on preparing students for careers in STEM and health fields. The school, whose charter is authorized by the City of Milwaukee, counts Marquette University and Medical College of Wisconsin among its partners, and has garnered support from the business community, including the late Milwaukee real estate developer Gary Grunau, a founding board member and former board president for MAS; Milwaukee Tool; Northwestern Mutual and several foundations. Its expansion was supported by a $5 million capital campaign.

McHenry recently reflected on the strengths of Milwaukee’s charter school sector in a Viewpoints article that he wrote for BizTimes, noting the model allows MAS to create partnerships with some of the region’s largest employers, like Milwaukee Tool and Northwestern Mutual.

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