Original 6X6 floor planks are exposed as Rae C. Stedman Elementary School cafeteria gets remodeled. The new cafeteria will have two rooms, one for cooking and serving and the other for seating. (Photo by Angela Denning/KFSK)

Renovations are continuing at both cafeterias in the Petersburg schools. As Angela Denning reports, while the remodel at the middle and high school cafeteria will be complete for the start of the school year the project at the Rae C. Stedman Elementary School needs more time.

It’s taken about seven years to get the elementary school’s kitchen redone but it’s definitely happening now.

Today, one contract worker is using a circular saw and another is finishing some dry wall. It’s definitely a construction zone and the work has been going on all summer. The project has absorbed one classroom to increase the space. The old cafeteria had the kitchen right in the middle of it but now there will be separate rooms for cooking and for seating.

“There’s going to be a ton of space,” said Carlee Johnson McIntosh, Director of Food Services for the Petersburg School District. “You can fit two grades in at a time rather than just one grade. You’ll have more time for them, then, to eat and less need for massive transitions.”

The new cafeteria will be up to code, including having its own laundry facility. Johnson McIntosh says it should be safer, keeping all of the equipment out of kids’ reach. And, she says, the food should be more fresh.

“You can be serving the food and still have something in the oven and then the next group comes through and you can give them something hot rather than having to have it all done and the oven turned off by the time the first group of kids gets there because of safety reasons,” she said.

This former kindergarten classroom is being remodeled into a kitchen for the Rae C. Stedman Elementary School’s cafeteria. (Photo by Angela Denning/KFSK)

The remodel moves an outdoor freezer inside. It also creates a water bottle filling station and hand washing sinks.

“So that will be really great for those ‘littles’ that really need that extra hand washing incentive,” Johnson McIntosh said.

The elementary students won’t be able to use the new cafeteria for the first six weeks of school. The district’s Maintenance Director, Dan Tate, says the cafeteria likely won’t be finished until early October because there have been some delays.

“One of [the delays] was a freezer unit was built and put into a storage facility and the storage facility apparently burned down,” Tate said. “So that was one potential problem that set us back over there.”

It’s still unknown where the elementary students will be eating at the start of school. Temporarily, the menus will be simplified and frozen foods will be stored off site like at the community cold storage building.

In the interim, most of the food prep will be done at the middle and high school’s new cafeteria.

The Viking Café, as the middle and high school cafeteria is called, is also getting a remodel with a separate kitchen and seating area. It’s not as detailed as the elementary’s but it will allow for “finish cooking”. So, in the long run, most of the prep cooking will still happen at the grade school, says Johnson Mcintosh.

For example, pizza dough and toppings can be made at the elementary and brought over to the cafe to bake.

“So, it’s fresh for our middle school and high school,” she said.

Signs are posted outside of the cafeterias at Petersburg’s schools, which are both under construction this summer. (Photo by Angela Denning/KFSK)

There is a new ADA accessible door for wheelchairs at the new cafe. There is also a grilling area that that can be used for concessions for school activities.

“So, it should be a greater fare out there when people come for basketball games and wrestling matches and volleyball,” Tate said.

Johnson McIntosh added, “running the concessions you can do the fundraisers without having people bring stuff in from home to increase the safety of the meals that we’re providing to the general public.”

Like the new elementary cafeteria, the Viking Café will also have a bottle filling station and a hand washing sink. And they’ll be more seating near the windows.

“We’re preparing to have counter top seating along the entire length of the wall,” Tate said.

The cafeteria projects have cost $1.6 million in state funding with about a half million dollars in local matching money.

Last year, about 150 elementary students ate hot lunch and 50 ate breakfast. 

About 80-100 middle school students ate hot lunch and about 40-50 high schoolers.