Get your spook on: West haunted house preparations begin

Frightful festivities follow the students of West the weeks leading up to Halloween. One of the most haunting happenings takes place on the day itself, as students who dare explore the decorated gym are in for a scare. A long history of these spooky occurrences date back many years, but the haunted house itself is in its fifth year of terrifying the student body.

The project restarted a few years ago after leadership teacher Elizabeth Podvin hoped to develop a relationship with the special ed classes, through scare tactics. Approaching the two special ed teachers, Stephanie Polak and Gillian Pakula, the idea was enthusiastically accepted.

“The fun activity turned into Ms. Pakula, the leadership crew, and my class, the three of us, setting up a small haunted house in the upstairs part of the gym. That then turned the following years, going into the new gym. So it got bigger and better,” said Polak.

Expanding greatly to involve even more groups and students, the student body is able to tour the maze of horrors throughout the new gym, a much bigger space to create more of an impact. This year, contribution to the haunted house has grown further.

“We are having the Global Academy students be the mentors for our students that have intellectual disabilities. They are going to be paired up with our students in the haunted house, and really help make it what it’s supposed to be,” said Polak.

The students of the Academy for Global Studies are excited to participate in this fun production as part of their integrated classes. Additionally to mentoring students, other roles are required of them to improve the haunted house as a whole.

“Global Leadership is involved with the haunted house and they are creating a clown room. They are working on this event to form partnerships with their Oshkosh West buddies, so this is just a way to collaborate and communicate within smaller groups in the Academy but also work with their buddies to make those connections,” said Kelsey Muthig, Personal Finance and Leadership teacher in the Academy.

Students involved in the development of the haunted house are excited the weeks leading up to Halloween with this fun activity. Brainstorming their ideas and compiling all of the props to bring a scare, they become more excited for the final product each day.

“The Academy teachers have been willing to give us at least one period almost everyday to work on it with our group,”  said junior Global Academy student Amber Wiedenhoeft. “So far we have constructed, drawn, painted, and cut out part of a creepy painted clown sign over the entrance. We have yet to add blood and streamers.”

Much collaboration is required of this project, and resources are harnessed from many locations within the school to produce an impressive result, taking on a greater form as it has developed.

“It’s gotten humongous, and it’s just such a neat thing to have everyone work together. The art department helps us out, a few students from the Connected group help us out, and it has just grown tremendously,” said Polak.

This year, new additions to the various rooms provided by the leadership classes promise to scare the visitors. Ghastly descriptions of a morgue, bat cave, chamber of spiders, and a psycho bathroom promise a frightening adventure through the decorated gym. The students not only constructed the horrors throughout the haunted house, but will be acting in it as well.

“The leadership classes had to work together to create a room and brainstorm and create ideas for the various rooms, and they are going to help be different actors throughout the haunted houses,” said Polak.

The students involved are excited about spending the day with others, building their leadership skills, and seeing the reactions of the familiar faces from the student body.

“I will be part of the group that gives the students a “surprising” greeting into the room that they start off in,” said sophomore Global Academy student Olukunle Akinleye. “I am just looking forward to get an opportunity to interact with students I normally would not be able to.”

All of this coordination between the different departments seems hectic, but after spending the entire day prior to Halloween compiling the different projects into one house of horror, the gym is prepared to frighten the students of Oshkosh West.

“There’s a lot of work and a lot of brains behind the haunted house, it’s a huge team effort. It’s kind of just sitting together, talking, and coming up with the resources, and then everyone multitasking to get the operation complete,” said Polak. “It’s pretty amazing. We only have one day to set it up, and it turns out beautifully every time.”

This complex event is a great opportunity for students with disabilities to celebrate the holiday as well. Being involved with a school function and being surrounded with peers promises an exciting, not to mention frightening, time for everyone.

“It’s just so neat to see so many different areas of the school come together to help students with disabilities,” said Polak. “It’s just an awesome event that different schools will come to see and that the whole school can enjoy.”

As the leadership students finish up their terrifying creations and prepare to spook the house’s visitors, the excitement for Halloween day grows. The student body will experience an even more horrifying Tuesday morning than sitting in their classes, courtesy of the commitment from the multiple groups that prepare West’s haunted house.

“I think it’s so cool to bring in all of these materials to make something, and to see the finished project is the most fun and most rewarding,” said Muthig.

The students involved, proud of their ideas and hard work, are enthusiastic to scare. Providing an entertaining and terrifying exhibit of the leadership skills they have attained, the involved students can’t wait to contribute even more to the project. Not only will West students be touring the haunted house Halloween morning, but visitors from other schools will be in attendance as well. Reactions from the participants provide a sense of pride to contributors.

“My favorite part is just the day of, and seeing all of the students light up and everyone that comes through, and just listening to, ‘Oh my gosh, that was so scary!’ and everyone just smiling,” said Polak. “It’s one day that the whole school can smile, and enjoy life.”


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