The new cafeteria and kitchen at Lovell Elementary is nearing completion.
Ten months into construction, the cafeteria is scheduled to be available for use by students come the opening day of school.
“It’s been designed to be appealing to a child,” Superintendent Rick Woodford said. “It’s colorful. It feels like a place a kid would like to eat and hang out. We really designed it having kids at the center of the decisions.”
The cafeteria space will be a quiet environment compared to the old cafeteria, Woodford said. While the old space often resembled an “echo chamber” the new cafeteria features acoustic panels on the ceiling, allowing for better management of sound. The space also has better lighting, Woodford said, allowing for a more pleasant atmosphere.
The facility is 20 percent larger than the old cafeteria and kitchen. The cafeteria will feature a projector screen, and a kitchen area that will be able to be secured, featuring a new walk-in cooler and freezer.
This allows the cafeteria to also be used as a multi-purpose room, which the public will be able to rent. It’s a function the old cafeteria was ill-suited to serve.
“That’s a big upgrade,” Woodford said.
The majority of kitchen equipment has been replaced, but the newest of the equipment in the old kitchen, such as the ovens, has been moved into the new unit.
Most everything is on schedule, Woodford said, but there are still some hurdles in the way.
“When you look at where the old cafeteria kitchen was, the walls that are still standing on the outside of the building are part of the old cafeteria, and they’re not stable,” Woodford said. They will have to come down.”
Those walls should be demolished before the school year starts, Woodford said.
The biggest worry will be tables, which may not be able to be manufactured and shipped in time for the first day of school.
“If not, I suppose we will improvise,” Woodford said.
The construction has already been through its fair share of hiccups. The main crew lost two full weeks of construction time due to the additional excavation work to remove the old foundation. The unexpected endeavor added another $60,000 to the roughly $3.2 million project, Woodford said.
While the cafeteria and kitchen are scheduled to be completed, work will still be in progress when the school year begins. A second phase of the project is scheduled to continue until the end of fall.
Largely focused on aesthetics, Woodford said the second phase will feature the construction of a new entry canopy, a resurfacing of the area where the old cafeteria was removed and landscaping.
At the end of it all, Woodford said the new space will create an exciting beginning to the school year and a new chapter for Lovell Elementary.
“I think people are excited to have a more modern, nice space for the kids,” Woodford said.
By Ryan Fitzmaurice