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Fernwood Montessori is getting bigger.
Fernwood Montessori is getting bigger.

10 views of the Fernwood Montessori addition progress

Early last year, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors hired Bay View-based Foundation Architects to design an addition at Fernwood Montessori School, 3239 S. Pennsylvania Ave., also in Bay View.

By last summer, the work on the new 21,566-square foot addition, with eight classrooms, a gym, an entry atrium and more, was underway. In December, I posted a progress report.

Today, I spent a little time with architect Craig Eide and school principal John Sanchez touring the new building, which is expected to be complete by mid-July, with furniture arriving in August, for a Sept. 1 first day of school.

The project – estimated to cost $9.6 million – also includes an elevator, making the 1920s building completely ADA accessible for the first time. Modifications to accommodate the elevator will shrink four classrooms, which will be transformed into other useful spaces (such as special education rooms and the like).

Other work in the existing building will expand the cafeteria – which has traditionally done double duty as a gym, too – move the library, create a community room and turn the former library back into a classroom space to accommodate what Sanchez says will be an enrollment of nearly 750 students (up from about 720 this past year).

A couple of the new classrooms won't be used this first year, but Sanchez says growth at the adolescent level will fill one of the rooms next year and the other the year after. The school, which has been rated by the state as "exceeding expectations" for a number of years, is one of the most sought-after in the district.

Ground was broken earlier this month on a more modest, five-room addition at MPS' Maryland Avenue Montessori School, another school that exceeded expectations on last year's state report card, on the East Side. Work is underway at the site and expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2017-18 academic year.

Here are some photos of the work at Fernwood, taken today...

Cafeteria expansion. New…

The view from the northwest of the planned Maryland Avenue Montessori School addition.
The view from the northwest of the planned Maryland Avenue Montessori School addition.

5 views of the Maryland Avenue Montessori addition

The Maryland Avenue Montessori School building has been growing periodically ever since the first school was opened on the site in the mid-1860s. I won't bore you with the specifics of that timeline here, but suffice it to say that space issues have been addressed via permanent construction in 1875, 1887, 1893, 1900 and 1950. And temporary classrooms were erected on the grounds at least twice: in the 1920s and just a couple years ago.

With one of MPS' most successful and popular programs bursting at the seams of the building, it should come as no surprise that a new addition is in the works.

The modest five-classroom addition will help the program accommodate its current enrollment and some growth expected based on the K3-8 school's low attrition rate. (Disclosure: As a volunteer with an interest in school buildings, I was invited to be a part of the school-level committee tasked with gathering input from the school community about what they'd like to see in an addition.)

This plan – long preferred by the school community – followed a couple considerably less popular solutions floated by former Supt. Greg Thornton.

The addition – which has a number of design elements that reference the 1887 Henry Koch-designed building and its 1893 Schnetzky & Liebert addition – was designed by Foundation Architects' Craig Eide, who also drew the new addition already rising at Fernwood Montessori in Bay View.

The new one-story masonry structure will wrap around two sides of the gym addition, erected in 1951. The project includes an elevator that will make the building ADA accessible on all four floors.

A groundbreaking is slated for Friday, June 10 at 8:30 a.m. and work will begin soon after. The addition is expected to be completed in time for the first day of school in September 2017.

Once the addition is completed, the temporary classrooms erected on the east side of the building will be removed.

Asphalt around the addition that will be torn up for construction wi…

It's National Wine Day!
It's National Wine Day!

A taste for National Wine Day

Today is National Wine Day – though I admit I celebrate this event considerably more than once a year – and it seems like the perfect time to share some of the wines I’ve been tasting lately.

Like many of us, I’m a creature of habit, so tasting different wines is a must (get it, a must?) for me, so I don’t become too mired in a rut.

Artesa Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, 2013

Retailing at $40, this brightly acidic Carneros Pinot Noir is densely packed with ripe red fruit – strawberries, black cherries and raspberries – and has a pleasant vibrancy. There’s oak but not too much.

Artesa Estate Reserve Chardonnay, 2013

Flavors of honey, nuts and pears combine in this satisfying white that has an almost creamy, buttery mouthfeel. It’s fruity and refreshing and perfect for the patio this weekend. $40.

Antonelli Montefalco Rosso, 2011

Once you fire up the grill, you’ll want to uncork this blend of Sangiovese (70%), Sagrantino and Montepulciano (15% each). Each of the varietals is fermented separately and then blended before aging at least a year in oak, clarifying in cement vats for 6 months and spending another 6 months or more aging in the bottle. The result is a gorgeous ruby red wine that is dry and fruity and perfect for grilled meats and pasta. $21.

Castelbuono Ziggurat Montefalco Rosso, 2011

Get another look at the same blend from this certified organic producer for around the same price ($19). Bright and packed full of red fruit flavors, this – like the Antonelli – is balanced and elegant.

Domaine Bousquet Malbec, 2015

Head to the New World for 100% Malbec grown high above sea level in Argentina. This nearly black wine is spicy and peppery with black fruits like currants, dark cherries and blackberries, and a dash of chocolate. Smooth on the tongue, this will also perfectly complement those steaks or chops on the grill. $12.

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

This high-scoring champagne (40% Pinor Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pino…

Addio, cumpare.
Addio, cumpare. (Photo: Maurice Seymour)

Julius La Rosa dies ... in Crivitz?!

To you, Julius La Rosa was the guy who was famously fired on the air by Arthur Godfrey. To me, he's that guy singing "Eh, Cumpari" and "Mama Rosa" on 45s I inherited from my grandmother. La Rosa died last week at age 86 ... in Crivitz.

I'm no expert on the Italian-American singer, so I'll suggest you read the obituary in The New York Times. It also has the story of his humiliating firing.

La Rosa was born in Brooklyn and went to high school in Queens, and spent 42 years living in Westchester County, N.Y. But he died at home in Crivitz, which makes me think...

1. Julius La Rosa died in Crivitz?!


2. I've driven through Crivitz on a number of occasions. You mean I could've met Julius La Rosa?

Apparently not, because La Rosa moved there just recently, according to

"'He and his wife moved to Crivitz, a small town in northeastern Wisconsin, only last November,' said Smith, who added that her mother was originally from Wisconsin. She said the La Rosa family vacationed in Wisconsin every summer and spent every other Christmas with her mother's family. Smith also said her brother, Christopher, lives in Crivitz.

"'It's a different way of life but he was ready for that,' she said. 'He didn't need the hustle and the bustle at 86 years old. He loved Wisconsin'."