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Highland Community School

Previously part of the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system, the building at 1706 W Highland Ave has been the home of Highland Community School (Highland) since 2012 and was officially purchased by Highland in 2015. As a K-8 parent run Montessori school, Highland’s education is child-centered and focuses on fostering responsibility, independence, and a love for learning.

Of their four pillars of education, Highland's emphasis on “Care of the Environment” is extremely evident through the school’s purposeful partnerships and ecostudies curriculum. Highland is a Green and Healthy Schools Wisconsin member and additionally a founding member of the Green Schools Consortium of Milwaukee (GSCM). Highland hosted the 1st annual GSCM Green Schools Conference and displayed their solar cart at the 2nd annual conference.

Highland's Natural Grounds Redevelopment Project has been running strong since 2012. Highland has involved its students in the creation and installation of native prairies, rain gardens, raised bed gardens, three bioswales, and a solar cart and offers extensive hands-on experience in urban agriculture through the school's two hoop houses, which include fully functional aeroponics and aquaponics systems.

Highland is also currently working to change the status quo from traditional steal and plastic playground equipment to dynamic installations made from natural materials, such as logs and rope. This also includes loose play elements such as small logs and tree cookies for fort building.

Highland Community School took the pledge as part of the Better Buildings Challenge - Milwaukee pilot program. Highland received a free energy assessment and has begun retrofit projects while creating plans to tackle capital upgrades in the near future.


The Better Buildings Challenge is positive for our city and for the status quo around how buildings are run. The fact that people are working towards these goals - I think it’s great and such an important thing to pass on.
Mike Casper, Director of Facilities and Maintenance

Energy Performance

Energy use for the building at 1706 W Highland Ave remained relatively stable between 2010 to 2011, dropped slightly in 2012, and has been significantly and steadily increasing since, according to the most recent data. During the building transition from MPS to Highland Community School, energy use likely increased due to the changes in building operation and occupancy. As a community school, Highland continues to use the building after school hours and on weekends for programs and events. Additionally, some problems with the building air handlers likely contributed to inefficiencies and additional energy usage.


Completed Projects

Lighting Project Completed Icon Plug Loads and Controls Project Completed Icon Building Envelope Not Completed Icon HVAC Project Not Completed Icon Appliances and Equipment Project Not Completed Icon On Site Generation Completed Icon Water Project Completed Icon

Plug Loads
& Controls



& Equipment




  • LED lights - replacing old ballasts and bulbs as they burn out, including exterior and parking lot lighting

Plug Loads & Controls

  • Motion-sensored lighting in hallway display case - replaced the previous manual light switch
  • School-wide lighting schedule through DDC

On-Site Generation

  • Solar cart - powers a rainwater capture system including four 275 gallon totes that pump water back into the hoop house irrigation system


  • Rainwater conservation - four 275-gallon cistern system that collects and pumps water into the school’s hoop house irrigation
  • Bioswales - three bioswales that together divert over 1.5 million gallons of water per year, conserving energy in the grid that would otherwise be expended to process the displaced water

Future Plans

Highland Community School has three big projects on deck as they begin to plan and implement renovations, in addition to their ongoing retrofits.

  • Replace the harsh yellow, inefficient stairwell lighting with more efficient fixtures. The current lighting uses 75 watts per bulb. There are six bulbs per stairwell and four stairwells.
  • Install LED lights to replace the eighteen 250 watt high bay, high pressure sodium lights in the gym.
  • Retrofit the bathroom plumbing to replace the automated flush timers that run on regular intervals with a manual push button to save water and energy.

Fast Facts

1706 W Highland Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Year Built

81,702 sq ft

Building Type
K-12 School

Highland Community School Inc.


Joined Pledge

20% reduction in Energy Use Intensity by 2026



Program Participation

Knowledge Icon Energy Assessment Icon Projects/O&M Icon
Occupant Engagement Icon Networking and Education Icon  


Project Types

Lighting Project Completed Icon Plug Loads and Controls Project Completed Icon On-Site Generation Project Completed Icon
Water Project Completed Icon    


Project Highlight: Solar Cart

To build the solar cart, Highland Community School engaged their students every step of the way. From researching, to designing, to building - the students learned while creating the cart, which is now utilized for to power a rainwater catching system that pumps four totes of nearly 300 gallons back into the schools hoop house irrigation and for demonstration.


Building Contact

Mike Casper
Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Highland Community School
[email protected]

Why Participate?

Social justice and community orientation are very ingrained in all that Highland Community School does. Sustainability is important because it’s an extension of that. Highland took the pledge because of the belief that we all owe it to ourselves to treat the world better and leave it better than we found it.

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