Perry Schools get set to welcome students back for new school year

Allison Ullmann
Perry Chief
Ned Menke, the new middle school principal and Brandi Wendt, the new middle school associate principal, stand in front of the Perry Middle and High School sign. The students will be sharing the high school as a renovation project continues at the middle school.

Perry Middle and High School students will have to adjust to more than the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 23.

Students from both schools will be sharing the same space as the Perry Middle School renovation is ongoing. 

“On the first day of school one of our priorities is really just allowing students to find and learn the locations they’re going to be at,” said Ned Menke, the new middle school principal. 

A team of staff members and high school students will help the middle schoolers find their new classroom spaces. 

“Once they’re in those classes with their teacher, hopefully the learning can still happen at a high level like it did at the end of the school year,” Menke said. “That’ll be the trick of this, making sure everyone can still learn and continue making progress here in the fall.”

Construction started on the renovation of the Perry Middle School building last spring. The middle and high school students shared the high school for a month at the end of the school year, Menke said, giving administrators a blueprint for how to start coordinating logistics.

Superintendent Clark Wicks talks about the Perry Middle School renovation project on Monday, Aug. 16.

“We had to sit down with Mr. Menke and go over every aspect of making sure every teacher has a room or a place to teach in, what areas we need to share, what areas we can best utilize the space we do have at this time. That took many, many hours and meetings over the summer and running it by our teachers,” High School Principal Dan Marburger said.

Marburger and Menke were happy to see the cooperation between the high school and middle school staff members. Some spaces, like the multi-purpose room, will be used as permanent locations for middle schoolers. Other spaces will be used throughout the day during teacher prep periods.

"Fortunately we have an unbelievable staff and leaders that are making this work so the middle school can be at the high school," said Superintendent Clark Wicks.

While the hope is to start transitioning students and staff to the middle school as areas are finished, Wicks said they don’t have a set completion date.

“We just know we’ll take it one day at a time,” he added.

For now, Wicks is enjoying seeing the progress being made. The most immediate impact, he said, will be the new location of the school offices near the front entrance. The commons area will also be updated, classrooms will be larger and new learning centers, including a STEM and computer lab, will be added.

One of the areas under construction at the Perry Middle School.

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous, tremendous asset for Perry Schools and the community of Perry,” Wicks said.

Menke and Brandi Wendt, the new middle school associate principal, are looking forward to seeing the completed renovation project.

“I’m excited (to see) the staff in their new rooms and the students are going to love the new space. It’s going to be a beautiful entrance too,” Wendt said.

Though it will be a slow transition as students and staff will move over to the middle school as spaces are completed.

“This will be a very unique year but one of those things we’re going to go through once here and at the end of this is going to be a fully renovated school. So we have to keep that picture in our minds as we’re trying to navigate through some of the challenges,” Menke said.

Until then, Menke and Wendt are looking forward to meeting the middle school students. This is Wendt’s first year in the district after she served as a 6-8 teacher at Norwalk. 

“I’m really excited and I can’t wait for the first day of school,” she said.

Perry Elementary School Principal Ned Menke welcomes students to the first day of school on Aug. 19, 2020. Menke will be in a new role for the 2021-22 school year as the middle school principal.

Menke will be heading into his 16th year at Perry Schools, though in a new role. 

“I worked in the middle school as a teacher so it will be a lot of fun to come back and to work with the grade levels of sixth, seventh and eighth grade as the principal,” he said.

Menke taught at the middle school for nine years and was at the Perry Elementary School for six years, most recently serving as the elementary principal. 

“(I) just can’t wait to see the hallways full of kids again and seeing everyone back with their friends and ready to learn for another year,” Menke said.