Sandy Slope Groundbreaking

Sandy Slope Groundbreaking
Posted on 10/17/2023

When Sandy Slope Elementary School opens in the fall of 2025, it will be our first new school in 30 years, with the last being North High School in 1995, and our first new elementary school in nearly 35 years. Our district places immense value on neighborhood elementary schools, and we are thrilled to add a school to this part of our community.

Twenty-four years ago, the AASD acquired a 42-acre parcel of land from Rich and Alice Van Handel near Appleton North High School. This forward-thinking move by our district was in anticipation of the growth we now witness in the northeastern part of our district. They envisioned the need for an elementary school on this land to accommodate the expanding community. This area once had a small, rural school called Sandy Slope, and the Van Handel’s farm was also known as Sandy Slope Farm.

Van Handel Farm

Sandy Slope Elementary’s groundbreaking was held on October 16, 2023. We were thrilled to kick off the construction of our newest school with the community and the Van Handel family in attendance.

To honor the farm's history, the Van Handel farm’s silo will be preserved as a part of the new school campus.

See renderings here: Sandy Slope Site Plan, Building Exterior, Classrooms

Since the purchase of the farmland, our district closely monitored the area's housing development. In 2015 we commissioned capacity studies from Hoffman Planning, Design, and Construction for our northside elementary schools. These studies continued to be updated until the summer of 2019 when it became clear that action was imperative. 

Our northside elementary schools were over capacity, with 11 out of 16 schools facing this issue. Huntley Elementary School, serving the Sandy Slope area, had an enrollment of 744 students, 160 over its capacity.

In response, the AASD formed the Future Needs Advisory Committee, comprising students, staff, parents, and community members, to explore solutions to the overcrowding, especially at Huntley. 

This committee met throughout the fall and early winter of 2019 and considered various options, including constructing an elementary and middle school on the acquired land or building a K-8 facility.

Ultimately, the committee recommended a referendum to fund the construction of a new elementary school, along with renovations and additions to middle and high schools, relieving overcrowding at all elementary schools.

However, the onset of the pandemic temporarily halted any referendum-related discussions for a year and a half. When we resumed these discussions in the fall of 2021, many things had changed globally, but our school capacity challenges remained. We spent a little over a year re-engaging with our committee, gathering feedback from focus groups, and finally went to a referendum in November.

We are immensely grateful for our community's overwhelming support, as the referendum received 70% yes votes, the highest percentage ever for a referendum question in Appleton. The vote took place on November 8th, and on November 9th, planning for our new elementary school, Sandy Slope Elementary, began.

As we celebrated our groundbreaking, we want to thank:

  • Future Needs Advisory Committee. Your tireless dedication, insightful recommendations, and unwavering commitment to the betterment of our educational system have paved the way for this groundbreaking. 
  • Our Board of Education for their support through this entire process.
  • Our staff members' invaluable input and ongoing support throughout the construction of Sandy Slope are also recognized.
  • Nan Bunnow, one of our Assistant Superintendents, who has led the planning for the past 11 months, alongside Assistant Superintendent Ebony Grice, who joined her over the summer
  • Mark Hansel, our Executive Director of Operations, and Joe Sargent, our Director of Facilities, for overseeing not only the construction of Sandy Slope but also the work on all our elementary, middle, and high school additions and renovations.
  • Sandy Slope Lead Planning Team and focus group participants who shared their invaluable insights and perspectives, helping us shape a school that truly meets the needs of our students and community.
  • Our gratitude extends to Hoffman Planning and Design and the Collaborative Learning Network for their expertise, creativity, and unwavering support in turning our dreams into reality.