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Washington Park Library super readers!
Washington Park Library super readers! (Photo: Milwaukee Public Library)

Create a Super Reader and prevent your child taking the "summer slide"

It's that time of year again. The time when I'm thrilled that my kids are thrilled to sign up for Milwaukee Public Library's Super Reader summer reading program.

This year's program kicked off on Monday, May 18 and runs through Aug. 29 (MPS is back in session on Tuesday, Sept. 1). Kids 0-12 can visit any MPL branch and sign up for free. They'll get a Super Reader yard sign or window cling and a sheet to track their reading over the summer.

Each time they complete a level, they can head back to the library and get a prize. At the end of summer they'll get more goodies, like free books, food coupons and admission to area attractions.

Teens 13-18 can take part in the summer "Put Your Face in a Book" program.

Each May, my kids can't wait to sign up.

One morning at breakfast, they shaded in the progress circles based on the previous day's reading and were proud of their early progress. Later, one of them said, "I think I'm becoming a book person."

Music to a parent's ears.

The National Summer Learning Association says that the "summer slide" – the brain drain that comes from kids' absence from the classroom – affects their progress and also negatively affects the achievement gap.

"Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months," according the NSLA's web site. "Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains. 

"More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities."

"Last year nearly 21,000 children participated," said Mayor Tom Barrett in a statement this week. "We want more. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s really important. I encourage parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers to bring the children in their lives to a Milwaukee Public Library to sign-up and to give them the support and encouragement …

Declining district enrollments led to the closing of Roosevelt School in 1996.
Declining district enrollments led to the closing of Roosevelt School in 1996.

A pair of school visits offers contrasting images

This morning the folks in the facilities department of the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District were kind enough to give me a tour of a closed school building – which I feature in a longer piece.

As an added bonus, my tour guide offered to show me an interesting school nearby, too. That one – a merger of two formerly separate school programs and their physical plants – is still open.

Some quick background. Roosevelt, 932 S. 60th St., was built in 1921 and closed in 1996. The district is currently in the process of selling it (more on that next week). It's a modest, but lovely old building that sits idle, with barely an echo of the children that once brought it to life.

About a mile away is Horace Mann Elementary, 6213 W. Lapham St., a K-5 school with an enrollment around 600. The school occupies two school buildings that were once separate but have since been joined.

Washington (below) was built as an elementary school in 1925, as an addition to the original Washington School, which was erected in 1902 (scroll to the bottom for an image).

Mann (below) was constructed as a junior high school in 1930 on the site of the 1902 Washington building, just to the west of the current Washington.

In 1997, the schools merged. These formerly separate buildings are joined by that section with the windows in the middle of the photo below.

After having wandered the stark, dim, quiet halls and classrooms at Roosevelt, seeing Horace Mann alive with activity, the chatter of young voices and the colorful artwork lining the corridors was striking.

Welcome to Roosevelt:

Welcome to Horace Mann:

At Roosevelt, you get a great view of the kindergarten room fireplace:

Meanwhile, at Mann – in one of the old Washington School kindergarten rooms – the fireplace is obscured. But, with colorful signs of activity. What you can't see in the photo is the room full of smiling kids standing behind the photographer.

Gym at Roosevelt:

Gym at Horace Mann:


Adventure Rock breaks ground on its new location next week.
Adventure Rock breaks ground on its new location next week.

Adventure Rock breaks ground on East Side site next week

Adventure Rock will host a groundbreaking Wednesday, May 20 for its new East Side location at 2240 N. Commerce Street, on the corner of North Avenue, according to manager Craig Burzynski.

The Brookfield climbing gym announced last year that it would build a new location on the site and a sign has been there ever since. But, until this week when an excavator arrived on the grassy patch, there had been no further indication that anything was impending.

"We are hoping to open sometime next winter," says Burzynski this morning. "You will definitely hear more about it in the coming months."

According to the gym's website, "The 17, 000-square foot purpose-built Milwaukee facility will be larger than the current Brookfield location.  The facility will feature over 18,000 square feet of climbing  with wall heights up to 42 feet, of that terrain, 2,000 square feet will be dedicated to bouldering. The facility will also include a dedicated fitness area, pro-shop and (more)."

The new location will be a boon to East Side families looking for indoor activities. At the moment nearly all the city's bouncy houses, trampoline parks and climbing walls are located in the south and west suburbs.

A Facebook post this morning quickly drew comments from eager future patrons.

Karl Kopp has owned the building for nearly 30 years.
Karl Kopp has owned the building for nearly 30 years.

Renovation blows the roof off new Kopp's pizzeria

I'm enjoying watching the progress of some vintage Milwaukee buildings being prepared for the future.

Today, especially, I noticed that the 1871 Italianate J.L. Burnham building at 100 E. Seeboth St., which is being renovated to house a Kopp's pizzeria, has lost part of its roof as the work, which began about a month ago or so, continues.

Karl Kopp has owned the building for nearly 30 years. It's unclear exactly when the restaurant is expected to open. A lot of work clearly remains to be done.

In March, workers started demolishing the interior of the building, which a city historic preservation report described as, "significant as Milwaukee’s best-preserved example of an early Italianate style commercial building. Its remarkable masonry work is a testament to its brickmaker owner and the tradesmen who built it and displays exceptionally fine detail in its pilasters, corbelling and cornice."

The building originally had street-level shops and second-floor office spaces for rent.

I'm thrilled that this rough-edged gem is getting a new luster and a new purpose, especially after having sat vacant so long while all around it new construction altered the landscape. I feared it would be razed, and, indeed, there was a plan afoot about a dozen years ago to tear it down for a condo project.

(An interior shot taken in early 2014)

The Business Journal's Stacy Vogel Davis and Sean Ryan did a couple nice pieces on the project here and here.

Across the river, work on the five-story 700 Lofts apartments – which began last year – is moving forward, too.

The 1910 building, at 700 W. Michigan St. – with a two-story addition dating to 1949 – is undergoing renovations that will create 49 "affordable" and market-rate loft units. The project is expected to be complete by summer.

The windows are being replaced and the paint has been cleaned off the brick exterior, as you can see from this photo taken this morning.

(Photo: Matt Mueller)

A few blocks east, at 401 W. M…