FREE SPIRIT DAY 5: Machinations, Graduations, and Congratulations

Well, this is it. The end. The time for people to begin leaving with tears in their eyes and fond recollections of the Free Spirit experience. It hearkens back to a certain APPSE class I once had…but I digress.

Though it was our final day, we certainly weren’t going to waste it sitting around doing nothing, so we bussed over to the Capitol for a tour of the press areas. We got to see the press galleries of both the House and the Senate (literally MINUTES before John Lewis led representatives in the House sit-in), as well as a lot of the backstage rooms and work areas. There’s even some press conference areas that the media has sole control over, meaning a representative can’t just waltz in and declare a conference for himself/herself. The news team has to give them permission. In their own building! Dang! That’s freedom of press right there. I approve. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in either of the houses, but here’s a chandelier. I’ll get some other stuff from the official photographer as well.

After that, it was back to the Newseum for a session with AP Photographer, Pulitzer Prize winner, and all-around photography genius Scott Applewhite. He had some good advice, but the highlight of the session was definitely the photos he showed us. He’s had a long career covering presidents and politics, so there’s a lot of good stuff in his portfolio. For instance, he casually showed us a shot of the president lined up with four former presidents.

Next up: lunch. Let me talk about the food for a second. I haven’t really mentioned it before (in the interest of being concise-ish), but I think it deserves a mention. Every meal that Free Spirit has served for us has been absolutely fantastic and WAY too fancy for a squadron of teenagers. Props to them.

Getting back to the thread, our lunchtime session was a talk with some former Freedom Riders. That’s right, these people (“Rip” Patton, Joan Mulholland, and Susan Wamsley) were actually down in the deep South in the Civil Rights Era getting beat up and arrested to stand up for the right thing. They had a lot to tell us, but I think the most memorable thing was when Rip explained how even though the jailers took their mattresses and put stool softener in their food, they just stayed cheerful and kept singing. When a guard told them to stop, one asked, “What are you going to do, put us in jail?”

Our last-ever Free Spirit session was a talk with Mary Pilon, author of The Monopolists, a book exploring life through the untold story of the woman who invented Monopoly. Ms. Pilon was super chill and fun to listen to. She extolled the virtues of studying abroad and gaining real experience (there’s been a theme to these sessions, I see) as well as taking advantage of the present. Very engaging, great speaker, but a similar message to the sessions earlier this week.

After a group photo on top of the Newseum, we all sat down for commencement. Yesterday, we elected two class speakers to give speeches (Adam from Kansas and Isabelle from Iowa), and they didn’t disappoint. The actual ceremony consisted of us receiving a medal and Mrs. Wells (one of the chief coordinators) reading our most important journalistic experience. My top experience can be viewed here: http://ift.tt/28U9GbJ

We also made a thank you video (I’ll see if I can get it on here at some point), which I think concluded the conference quite nicely; a great ending to a fantastic conference.

Ha! You thought we were done, didn’t you? I wish. Our last activity was a river cruise on a legit paddlewheel steamboat down the Potomac with music and dancing aplenty. There was also a fair amount of standing at the prow feeling the breeze (I may have to become a professional boater) and taking pictures in the sunset.

When we returned to the hotel, there was much goodbye-ing. Tears were shed, hugs were circulated; it was a bit of a scene in the hotel lobby. The journalism crowd is certainly an emotional one.

What’s next for me? Sleep. Some people have to leave really early in the morning, but this old Wisconsinite doesn’t truck out until 11, so it’s a day of relaxing until then. Overall, this conference has been absolutely amazing, yadda yadda, you’ve heard it all before. The truth of everything is that I really have appreciated the things I’ve heard this past week. My brain is now churning with pieces of advice for West Side Stories, so hopefully we’ll see some big changes in this next year.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

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FREE SPIRIT DAY 4: Rights, Courts, and Sports

It seems like only yesterday that we were just getting to know each other and laughing over our mediocre Newsmania abilities. Now it’s Day 4, and we only have one more full day together. Such is life.

Our first session today was at the Newseum’s memorial area to those journalists who lost their lives doing their job. The plaque had been updated quite recently with the 2015 names, and I will say that it’s astounding just how many journalists have died over the years. Dr. Courtney Radsch of the Committee to Protect Journalists talked to us about her experiences with safety (she was a reporter in places like Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, which aren’t too keen on the whole “free press” thing). She also talked to us about the value of self-advocacy in journalists and the role of international organizations. It was very inspiring.

We moved back upstairs to the classroom for the rest of our morning sessions, staring with a rousing talk from executive director of the Religious Freedom Center, Charles Haynes. He made some very good points about the First Amendment, and explained that while we may not always agree ideologically with certain religions, it’s important that we agree to stand up for their rights. He explained the need to teach all religions in schools, fully, and most importantly, correctly. There are often parents who will get mad if their child isn’t being taught that Islam is an evil religion, but schools need to get over that. I think he was definitely one of the best speakers we’ve heard. I should probably move on before this gets too soap boxy.

The next session was a crew of political reporters who came in to discuss the elephant in the room: this election cycle. Moderating was former Al Neuharth Journalism Award winner and former news anchor John Seigenthaler, and the panel consisted of USA Today Washington Bureau chief Susan Page, former Politico editor and current editor-at-large Bill Nichols, Washington Post staff writer Abby Phillip, and CNN Politics editor Juana Summers. We discussed everything from media bias to debates to the new political landscape to, of course, the rise of Trump. It was interesting to hear the writers’ accounts of Trump rallies and how, despite all the shade Trump throws at the media, he still has really good relations with them because he makes himself so accessible all the time. I couldn’t make this up; it’s crazy.

Over lunch, we had a Q/A session with this year’s Al Neuharth Journalism Award winner, Chris Berman. With my history of not watching ESPN, I must confess that I didn’t know the man before today, but everything I’ve heard assures me that he is most deserving of the award. He had a lot of really good advice for us as well, which I won’t go into.

After lunch, we all bussed down the block to the DC District Court, where we heard from Student Press Law Center attorney Adam Goldstein about how student journalists and journalists in general have a lot of responsibility. We then had an actual mock trial with federal judge Royce Lamberth. I am so happy I was selected to be a student attorney on the prosecution panel because it was such an awesome experience. I was super nervous at first, but then the old APPSE neurons started going and I went up there and made my case. I’m sure Schneck would be proud. In the end, my team won the case, so I guess we did a good job. Unfortunately, our phones were turned off for the time inside the courthouse, so check back later and I’ll have some photos from the official Free Spirit photographer.

We went promptly back to the Newseum for the awards dinner for Chris Berman. This included guests who were either VIPs of the Newseum or fellow Free Spirits from all the way back to 2000. I’m proud to say that my table did have a fellow Wisconsinite, so I wasn’t the only crazy cheese head around. The awards ceremony was far too fancy for the likes of me, and as such I was thoroughly tired by the time we returned to the hotel. One more day left! This conference is going by too quickly.

 

Here’s my fellow Wisconsinite. We look disturbingly similar.

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FREE SPIRIT DAY 3: News Pros, the Future, and a Little Bit of Politics

BOOM! Day 3 already! This conference is going by faster than a free eagle flies majestically into the sunset. 
Today was chop full of good stuff, so I’ll try to keep it brief. We begin our narrative on Floor 7 of the Newseum. Our first presentation was with 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner Sara Ganim. She told us her story: how she came to cover the infamous Sandusky story in her mid twenties, as well as gave us aspiring journalists some top tips to succeed in the industry. As it turns out, the key is to start small and get some down-to-earth experiences and get valuable mentors who you can really relate to. Who would’ve guessed?
Next up, the tech god and professional mind wrecker Val Hoeppner was back with a talk about tech trends in journalism, the end result of which was all of us getting a Google Cardboard VR headset and exploring the New York Times’ virtual worlds inside their very lovely app. Even nerdy old Rick was thoroughly impressed with this one. It’s an impressive experience, and it has even bigger implications. 
Moving swiftly along, Free Spirit coordinator Catherine Cheney brought in University of Maryland College of Journalism Dean Rafael Lorente, USA Today inductee AJ Neuharth, Washington Post business reporter and relative local Abha Bhattarai, and St. John’s University journalism student Derrell Bouknight. That was a very long introduction for a very intriguing discussion about preparing for a journalism career. We covered a lot of ground, but a central theme (which has always been mentioned to me on these sorts of contexts) was that studying journalism in college wasn’t necessary to becoming a journalist. Of course, Dean Lorente also extolled the virtues of studying journalism, as did the others on the panel, so evidently it doesn’t matter either way, so long as you stay dedicated. 
Over our incredibly fancy (catered) lunch, we talked with former presidential press secretary and current presidential debate commission member Mike McCurry. Our conversation spanned all and sundry, and at some point I’ll post the details. Needless to say, it was a fascinating conversation. 
Next stop: USA Today. By the way, if you think I’m moving along very quickly, it’s because I’m mirroring the speed at which this conference is moving: too fast. We toured the facilities of USA Today, touching on a variety of departments and then finishing up with a Q/A session with executive editor Beryl Love and managing editor Patty Michalski. Again, lots of great stuff. They’ve got a massive hub in the middle of the newsroom where all the higher ups sit, and it’s easy to imagine that breaking news sends everyone scurrying to the middle. Overall, it was great to tour a big press company and see what the modern newspaper looks like from the inside. The top editors also had some great tips for leadership, so that didn’t hurt, either. These pictures are only shots of the lobby. Check back soon for more of the inside. 
Also, this guy. 
Boom! Dinner. Chicken. Cake. French horn. Done. 
Bang! Back to the Newseum to hear “Freedom Sings”. This was a concert performance and narration of a number of songs that were considered racy, explicit, misinterpreted, and revolutionary throughout the ages. It was, however, performed by people who were quite good but also quite old. It didn’t quite hit the modern day comparison I was looking for, but the literary analyst in me will have to wait for another day. While the music was sadly lacking Scatman John, it was well-played and accompanied by some interesting history, so overall: not bad.
We concluded the night with another humid, dark tour of the monuments on the mall. Nothing of note happened here. Please don’t ask. Trust me. 

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FREE SPIRIT DAY 2: News, Neuharth, and Never Stopping

Day 2 began early, with a hotel breakfast and a 7:30 departure for NBC studios. We were off to Meet the Press. Everyone was excited for the interviews with Paul Ryan and Loretta Lynch, as well as just seeing the filming of the news show.
Cut to twenty minutes later as everyone (crammed onto a single bleacher) attempted not to poke their neighbors with elbows and kneecaps. We found out the Ryan and Lynch interviews were pre-recorded, so that was a bit disappointing, but it was still fantastic to see the elaborate system of lights on the ceiling (check out the picture) and the whole process of filming an episode of Meet the Press. As it turns out, Chuck Todd rerecorded some of his remarks during the conversation with a clever little close up shot. No doubt the audience never knows the difference. Afterwards, Mr. Todd came over for a picture with us Free Spirits (which I will put up as soon as I have it) and a Q/A session (the contents of which I am not allowed to divulge). After all too short a time, he was whisked away to catch a flight.
Also, here’s a nice shot of Chuck Todd getting nice and makeup’d:
We were bustled out of NBC and bussed over to the Newseum, where we attended a session with all-around tech, news, and teaching wizard Val Hoeppner about using social media for news. It was very enlightening; I will certainly have some suggestions for our journalism program back home.
Over lunch, we listened to Gene Policinski talk about the First Amendment survey most of us took a while back. There was certainly a fair amount of guilt tripping, which one can hardly expect to avoid when the subject is civic education in America.
Next up was a session called The New Normal, with National Geographic editorial director Susan Goldberg, VICE News social media head Dan Fletcher, and Washington Post story team editor Emily Chow, with the interview conducted by Dani Neuharth (Al’s granddaughter) as well as members of the audience. I’m pleased to announce that the landscape of news is changing drastically, but it’s OK! As long as us good little journalists stick to our principles, we can sail through it to keep the industry alive. Excellent. Good. Unless something drastic happens along the lines of a hive mind for instantaneous news connectedness.
Next up, we had a tour of the Newseum (including both a guided portion and a freeroam portion), which was as fantastic as I expected. I especially liked the exhibit on the FBI and the moral questions concerning crime reporting. The Pulitzer Prize gallery was also excellent. The newspaper on display from Wisconsin was the Green Bay Gazette, and I’m sure that’s because of my awkward family history with the Journal Sentinel (best left unsaid).
After that, we went to another information session with Dani Neuharth, except she was accompanied by her mother (Al’s daughter) and her brother. The goal here was for us to learn more about the man whose conference we’re attending, and as such we were indoctrinated with videos of Al talking to the first few generations of Free Spirits, as well as interviews aplenty. The Neuharths also filled us in about how Al inspired and helped them along their paths to success. It did end up getting a little repetitive, but it was all good stuff.
When we were finished there, it was off to dinner and then a tour of the capital’s top monuments. Our most notable stop was the white house, where we met a protester named Joshua. Joshua educated us about how all the media and politicians are puppets for the corporations, so we did our best to encourage him that our generation of journalists would be independent and unbiased. Hopefully our friend Joshua will remember that and gain back a little faith in the system.
You’ll note that this post is a little late. That’s because we got back at 10:45 last night and have had next to no down time. Excellent for the conference, but unfortunate for a struggling blogger!

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FREE SPIRIT DAY 1: Introductions and Newsmania

It’s Free Spirit time! I arrived today in DC with high hopes and an even higher level of nervous. When one loses one’s itinerary before the trip, it’s difficult for one to know what’s going to happen. Luckily for me, however, I was supplied with everything I could possibly need to be a good little journalist for the next week (including a fresh itinerary). After the preliminary coordinator introductions and rule book recap, we headed over to Bertucci’s in the George Washington University campus for a communal dinner of pizza and curiously half-filled water glasses. 
After dinner, we went to the Newseum to hear a brief introduction from the Newseum Operations Coordinator Gene Policinski and each state our favorite freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. I chose the right to petition, just to be different. Petitioning is pretty cool, right?
As it turns out, the freedom of speech is the cornerstone of American democracy and without it, none of us would be here. No, I don’t need to attribute that statement, because it’s pretty much what every third person said. Go figure. We were also being recorded, so no doubt you’ll find that video somewhere in the future. Check out this delightfully low-def panorama:
Here’s Mr. Policinski congratulating us on netting all five First Amendment freedoms afterwards, and bidding us a fond adieu until tomorrow:
After the discussion about that Constitution thing we like so much, it was time for a lovely seven rounds of Newsmania (is that trademarked?): a news-and-politics-but-also-other-random-things-like-history-oriented trivia game. I’m proud to say that after almost a full game of being behind, my team pulled through in the end after an odd bonus round of naming Supreme Court justices. Thank you, justice Breyer!
On the way out, we picked up signed copies of Chuck Todd’s (who we’ll be meeting tomorrow!) book The Stranger. I guess this means I need to start watching Meet the Press on a weekly basis. 
That about concludes it for Day 1, and we were only doing things for about 4 hours! The days ahead will certainly be packed with excitement. Thanks for tuning in.

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Students Rally In the Aftermath of Controversial Comments

Controversial racial comments made by West Principal, Frank Calarco last week Friday April 22nd, lead to a student demonstration held earlier today in the West Learning Center.

 

Senior Thomas Leonard says that last Friday, Calarco came into his second hour class and asked that, “Someone tell this kid that it’s not the 1960s anymore and black kids don’t have to sit in the back anymore.”

 

Principal Calarco sent out an email to the students of Wauwatosa West explaining what happened during his visit to the classroom. The email further upset Leonard, and many of his fellow classmates.

 

Following the email, Leonard put together the rally in order to tell Calarco how his words had hurt not only himself, but the entire West community.

 

“It’s not a black or white thing. It’s a human thing,” said Leonard to the gathered students in the Learning Center.

 

Calarco’s comment and email sparked heavy criticism from students at Wauwatosa West and many skipped their second hour class in order to come and support Leonard and voice their frustration at Calarco during the demonstration today.

 

“This is not the first time that this [racial comments] has happened. But this is the first time we all stood dup. I feel administration is a coward,” said one West student after Leonard finished talking and the rally was winding down.

 

“I came for justice,” said another student.

 

Leonard is calling for Calarco to take responsibility for his actions, stating amongst cheers and applause during the rally, “what we need to do now is inform our parents, and our parents need to call the district, and our parents need to call the school and make sure that Mr. Calarco is held accountable.”    

 

Calarco did not address the students during the rally, however did come and speak to some of the students who stayed behind after the rally finished, pulling them into the auditorium in order to share his feelings and opinions on what had occurred, while also answering any questions that the students had. It became clear during the meeting that students wanted an apology above anything else from their principal.

 

Until this point Calarco had not issued a formal apology for what occurred, but around 11:00am he issued such an apology to the student body over the announcement system.

 

Students appreciated the apology but some still had their doubts as to its sincerity.

 

“I appreciate the fact that he did it, but it’s kind of hard to tell whether he only did it cause we wanted him to and was forced to, or because he genuinely felt bad,” said one West student following the apology Calarco issued.

Administration was not open for questioning during the day but Wauwatosa Superintendent Dr. Phil Ertl issued the official statement from the district quoted below.

 

“Last week, Frank Calarco, principal of Wauwatosa West High School, made a racial comment to a        class of students. The statement, while not intending to be harmful, was insensitive and inappropriate.  Mr. Calarco apologized to students on Friday and again (Monday). (On Monday) morning I joined        some other district staff, including the district’s Supervisor of Equity and Student Services, to listen to    students  who are understandably upset about this situation.

In  the Wauwatosa Schools, we have gone to great lengths to address issues of race and ethnicity in a   thoughtful and straightforward manner and to open dialogue about race. It is clear that much work       remains.

Just as Principal Calarco has apologized, I, too, want to offer students and families my heartfelt         apology  for this situation. As a school district, our focus is on creating a safe and inviting school environment for all students. These comments moved us away from that goal.

I am very sorry. 

In the short term, I welcome any student, parent or community member who would like to discuss this matter to contact me directly. I want to ensure that you are heard, and I want the opportunity to apologize to you directly.

In the longer term, I believe that we must continue to make sure all students feel like our schools belong to each and every one of them. I am committed to making sure the Wauwatosa School District is the best place for all students to learn. Again, on behalf of the Wauwatosa Schools, I am very sorry for this situation.”

 

West Reacts After A Threat To The School

by: Zoe Stack

All Wauwatosa West High School students were ushered into the gym this morning while an investigation of the building was being held due to a threat the school had received earlier that morning.

 

Wednesday, March 9th, Wauwatosa West received what Principal Frank Calarco called in a statement sent out to parents via email, a “nonspecific threat.” Teachers were called down to the office and then each grade level was called down to the gym, where they stayed for about an hour and fifteen minutes before being released back to class.  

“Part of me is thinking that this isn’t serious and that somebody was just making a dumb phone call, and that we are just going to get out of here in the next twenty minutes and that nothing is going to happen. But then part of me, I think everybody is feeling this way, but they are concerned that something is actually happening, because nobody knows what’s going on,” said senior Kenna Gallegos-Roll.

 

Throughout much of the time spent in the gym students and staff did not know what was going on, and that was one of the main reasons students were uneasy.

 

“I wish that we knew what was going on, because then it would kind of like make it so like we would know if it was real or not, and it would either like, i don’t know if it would cause like commotion or if it would make people like more calm knowing what was going on,” said senior Katy Shotts. She went out to say,  “I feel like they want to know what’s going on too, and i feel like it’s kind of our right to know what’s going on, and i feel like a lot of people are like, they’re freaked out but they don’t want to like say anything you know?”

 

Some students were quite worried during the entire situation.

 

“In the gym I was like, someone is going to come in here any minute and I was thinking like, oh my gosh, like something could happen like we’re all fine and stuff right now and everyone thinks their safe and I’m just thinking like, what if someone just like comes in through like one of the doors or the whole school just boom, just blows up or someone comes in shooting, I was just really worried about that, that something was going to happen while everybody was off guard,” said junior Adriana Hamilton.

 

However, not all students thought that this threat was anything to worry about.  

 

“We had like three my freshman year, and nothing came of it, what’s going to come of this one, you know?  It’s just some kid who wants an excuse to skip out on school,” said senior Katie Dickey.  

 

As Calarco stated in his message to parents, administration felt that, “at this time, we have no indication that this is a credible threat.” However, they still had to follow certain protocol.

 

“I know this morning we got into the situation where you don’t really know what’s going on. Some of you are probably stressed some of you are afraid, probably have a lot of questions, but you all know here at Wauwatosa West High School, Wauwatosa Police Department, Wauwatosa School district, we do take your safety, safety is very important, so we take that very seriously,” said Officer Farris Griffin.

 

Overall people feel the situation was handled well and that students did a good job acting in an appropriate manner. In several emails that were sent out to parents and students, Calarco stated how he was proud of being the West principal.  

 

“I think that went pretty smoothly to tell you the truth. I think the students did a really good job … There was no running or panic or anything like that, they were just kind of concerned…,” said math teacher, Jeanine Berggruen.

 

Students were released back to their classrooms and school is scheduled to be in session tomorrow. However, should there be any further threats students would be evacuated again, potentially to Eisenhower, the building checked, and then brought back to the school.

 

So, moving forward, lets hope for the best, we’ll plan for the worst, but hope for the best …,” said Calarco.

 

Teachers were annoyed with the disruption to the day and hope it doesn’t happen again.

 

“I don’t think, whoever did it, whether it was a student or somebody outside the building, realizes the gravity of the situation and you know like, officer griffin said, you know, it’s it’s frightening and there’s a lot of confusion and I don’t think they realize either that if it were truly a credible threat, that a lot of people would be in danger and that’s a serious thing, and you don’t want to be crying wolf in situations like that,” said Berggruen.

 

“It’s a huge disruption in our day and if you consider, some joker that made this call was worried about himself or herself and it you know it’s a lot bigger than that. This is a whole school, with staff and hundreds and hundreds of students, and um it’s unfortunate that the idiocy of a person can affect us like this, but it does, but we do the best we can, it is what it is, and but boy what a huge disruption,” said theater director and teacher Adam Steffan.

 

It wasn’t just teachers who did not think highly of what happened, but students also were also unhappy with the situation.

 

“It wasn’t cool whatever point you were trying to make, whatever you were trying to do, it’s not going to matter 10 years from now, you know you’re just going to look back and think it was really stupid of you to do something like that and you wouldn’t want anyone harming or getting your family worried, and so why would you do it to a family member or to someone’s child or to someone’s brother or someone’s sister,” said Hamilton.

 

Whoever made the threat to the school is facing, 10,000 dollars in fines, a two year suspension of their driver’s license, and if the person is over 17, potential jail time for committing what is described as a felony. Their family is also facing 20,000 dollars in restitution.

 

A 1000 dollar cash prize, along with a new iPad is being offered as a reward to anyone who can come forward with any information concerning the threat issued to the school.

 

“Because of somebody’s idiocy this morning, we had a lot of police, the sheriff as well, they’re here investigating nonsense when they’re really needed other places, so think about that. Any help that you can find helping us out find out who did this, a thousand dollar reward and an iPad, that’s not too shallow,” said Calarco.

 

Center Street Bridge Reconstruction

By Jade Grippe and Zoe Stack

Photo by Rachel Haynes

 

Getting to school is almost nobody’s favorite part of the day, and recent events have made the commute just a little bit harder.

 

Early Monday January 25th, the Center Street bridge, which runs over 1-94, was closed to all traffic, cycles, and pedestrians. Since Monday, preparations have been underway to prepare the bridge for the first stage of demolition, which will take place on Friday January 29th at 10 pm to Saturday January 30th at 10 am. Demolition will resume Saturday January 30th at 10 pm and is scheduled to finsih Sunday January 31st at 10 am. During those periods of time, both north and southbound lanes of I -94 will be fully closed.  

 

The closure is the fourth installment of the multi-year, multi-part Zoo interchange project. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the portion of the Zoo project involving the Center Street bridge and the highway beneath, aims at reconstructing and widening 1-94 in preparation for the anticipated traffic volume in the future.

 

While The DOT believes the bridge will cause a lot of benefits in the long run, many students at Tosa West are not so happy about the long-term project coming their way.

 

“I have to go around and it sucks. I have my way of getting to school and I liked how I used to get over the bridge,” said senior Alex Lee.

 

Many students at Tosa West are finding it hard to get to school in the morning on time with all the rerouting that has been caused by the bridge closing.

 

“I was really scared about being late the first couple days. I don’t want to be marked tardy for something that I can’t control,” sophomore Hailey Wilson stated.

 

Due to the reroute, many students were finding it hard to get to their first hour class on time. Principal Frank Calarco and the rest of the Wauwatosa West administration understood the issue and allowed student to be excused tardy to their first hour class all week long.

 

“We wanted to give parents and students a full week to adjust to the new traveling schedule, and it’s gotten better every day,” said Calarco. He said that tardies have improved at both Eisenhower and Whitman as well.

 

Calarco even finds some benefit to this entire project taking place in the middle of the school year.

 

“I think this another great life long lesson for our young adults here at West. you have to be flexible. there are some people who are up in arms about how could you do this during the school year, well they can’t get it done over the summer and it has to get done. You have to react and be flexible and try to be proactive; and so, for our students, this may happen to you as a grownup, where all the sudden you have to make adjustments to get to your job 15 minutes earlier,” Calarco stated.

 

While some may see this project in a positive light, others still are rather upset.

 

Some students even started a hashtag on Twitter, #savethebridge. While it started as a joke, people at Tosa West have really embraced the idea.

 

“It kind of caught fire. We got teachers chanting it in the lunchroom,” said Lee, the founder of the hashtag.

 

Lee, along with the others who have been perpetuating the hashtag don’t quite know where it is headed.

 

“It could go two ways, my parents told me not to make it a real thing …  I do kinda want to just go overboard and maybe protest Madison. And we’re not sure what’s gonna happen, but the spirit will live on … It’s kinda of an ani-the-man spirit,” said Lee.

 

The Department of Transportation understand the upset that the students are feeling.

 

“What we have found out and what’s generally the case anytime we are about to embark on a large project, whether it’s the zoo interchange project or any project across the region, before you start the project there is generally some apprehension, and justifiably so, it’s something different you have to change your plans. You’re moving into areas that are unfamiliar to you as far as when do i have to leave what’s my alternate route, what can i do,” said Pyritz.

 

In addition, the Department of Transportation has tried to smooth over the transition and attempt to make things easier for students at Tosa West, Whitman, and Eisenhower, among which was creating a drop off location just south of Burleigh, as well as reconstructing the pedestrian bridge that crosses I-94 just north of the Center Street bridge.

 

“Now students from Whitman, West, Eisenhower, that need to transverse back and forth have a safe and efficient way to do so while we are reconstructing the Center Street bridge,” said Pyritz.

 

While people are still adjusting to the whole new system, Pyritz said that people will soon begin to get used to the new way of doing things.

 

“People generally adjust fairly well after about the first week or two of the project and by the time it’s done they are like woah, that’s fantastic.”

 

The Department of Transportation does have some advice for everyone as they adjust to the bridge closure.

 

“The best advice I can have is, plan ahead, leave a little extra early, adjust your schedule accordingly, and you know remain patient. You know everybody who’s dropping off their kids and picking up their kids they are all in it together. You know, the bus drivers that are coming and going for the sporting events, they have to adjust to it as well.”  

 

Further bridges will be under reconstruction in the future. The North Ave bridge as well as the structure over Highway 100 North of Watertown Plank will be rebuilt.  

 

For any addition information about the zoo interchange project go to:  http://zooic.org

There you can also sign up for updates that are specific to the Zoo project, as well as look at the weekly construction forecast

For any traffic information visit: http://511wi.gov

There you can find information about travel times and any accidents that may have occurred.   

 

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