New ag, CTE additions open at Bowler School

Facilities expected to close gap on career learning opportunities for rural students
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

The Bowler School District is excited about new additions to the school that are big wins for its agriculture and technical education programs.

The district held ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the two additions located behind the school on Aug. 29. The project cost $3.4 million, with the district borrowing $3 million that will be paid back over 10 years, while the rest came from grants.

Career and technical education programs have been a big focus for schools in Shawano County, and the new 3,800-square-foot facility is expected to provide plenty of space for middle and high school students to learn about automotive technology, welding, machine tooling, fabrication and more.

The agriculture facility, totaling 4,500 square feet, includes a new greenhouse, along with facilities for aquaponics, an area for livestock animals and classrooms.

“The kids are going to love it,” said Nick Van Laanen, the project director from Bayland Construction, the company hired by the district to build the additions.

School officials also had positive words for the new facility prior to opening them up for the community to see. Agriculture teacher Tara Christian is eager to see what new directions her students can take in keeping the world fed.

“Not only does this area offer new opportunities and possibilities for all students, but it also leaves a lasting impact on the community,” Christian said. “This is certainly an exciting day in Bowler history.”

Karter Kolpack, president of the Bowler FFA, is optimistic he’ll learn a lot with more hands-on opportunities at the school than he had available before the additions were built.

“For those of you who don’t know, I’m also a part-time maintenance worker here at the school, and I have seen each detail of these buildings and know exactly how they can positively impact our school and our community,” Kolpack said. “The large scope of our new learning experiences will be great and vast, and I hope that over my last year at school our learning experiences will continue to grow, and after I am graduated, the officers that come after me will continue to express the same feeling.”

Tim Ploeger, technology education teacher, said he’s been waiting a long time for an adequate facility to teach students about the many different career opportunities available after high school. There are two teachers who teach CTE classes, but they had to share one space before the new addition.

“The space and lighting is so much better than the building we had before,” Ploeger said. “Students will be able to move around without bumping into one another or tripping or anything like that. The new building comes with some new tools that will bring us into the 21st century.”

Ploeger noted the new tools will help get students closer to certification in a particular CTE field because they’ll be available locally, helping students to get into careers much sooner.

“In the classrooms, you may have noticed we have some new tools there,” said Ploeger. They include a vinyl cutter printer, a laser engraver and some 3-D printers, he said.

Derek Schreiber, a student at Bowler High School, sees nothing but possibilities with the new CTE building.

“I’ve been interested in engineering all my life, and I see this building as a way for me to explore the world of manufacturing and design, as well as learn more about the process of production,” Schreiber said. “More than ever, students at Bowler High School will be able to broaden their horizons, whether it’s to find their niche or become a more well-rounded individual.”

Superintendent Glenda Butterfield-Boldig noted the community has been very supportive of Bowler schools and that a community-member committee also helped with the design of the facilities.

“We’re making sure we’re offering high-quality education for our students,” Butterfield-Boldig said. “We’re going to be able to show students what’s possible once they leave here.”

She added that small, rural districts like Bowler often find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to preparing students for the world of work, but with the new additions and the renewed enthusiasm of students and staff at the school, the disadvantage is disappearing.

“Collectively, as a board, as a community, as staff, we decided that we would dream big for our district and even bigger for our students,” Butterfield-Boldig said. “They deserve the same opportunities as their peers in larger communities. Tonight, we see the beginning of making those dreams a reality for Bowler students.”

The Bowler School Board approved borrowing the money in 2022 after considering the rising costs of building materials and deciding that doing the buildings as a joint project rather than separately would be fiscally sound.