By DIANE M. BITTING
Special to the Advocate
The cafeteria that serves both high school and middle school students at the Elizabethtown Area High School/ Middle School complex will undergo some type of renovation in order to accommodate sixth-graders when they move from Bear Creek School to the middle school in the 2021-22 school year.
But how extensive that renovation will be has yet to be decided by the school board. Board members did, however, review four options at their meeting held on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Bear Creek, following the dedication of the district’s new solar field located there. Grace Heiland of the Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates architectural firm presented four plans, with estimated costs ranging from $250,000 to create an additional 1,000 square feet of space from a former dish room to options costing $1.375 million and $2.5 million, both of which would include a food court. All would seat a minimum of 630 students.
But first Heiland outlined the conditions of the existing cafeteria, which seats 330 high school students and 276 middle school students in separate seating areas with one kitchen serving both. The last renovation was done in 1998, with almost all the serving equipment updated then; the existing kitchen functions well.
The high school has four half-hour lunch periods and the middle school three, with a lunch period to be added when the sixth-graders move in. The current lunch-line wait is 10 to 12 minutes, but more checkout stations can be added, Heiland said.
The current cafeteria was also described as cramped, overcrowded and, with its low ceilings, loud. Superintendent Michele Balliet noted that the sound level is about the highest she’s experienced in education.
“We have the best darn kids, but they’re loud,” she said. “If you have ever driven anywhere in a van with a group of kids, now multiply that by about a hundred.”
The second option, at $265,000, would include acoustic wall panels to lower sound levels. The third option with the food court would renovate 4,800 square feet of space while the $2.5 million food court option would renovate nearly 19,000 square feet of space.
Both higher end options would include new food service equipment for the food court and upgraded furniture. None of the four options include new kitchen equipment or adding a sprinkler system.
Based on Crabtree’s recommendation, members agreed to include the second plan, at $265,000 with the acoustic panels, as an alternate bid to go with the already approved $6 million plan to renovate the middle school’s lower level for sixth grade.
But, with the future to include a renovation of the high school/middle school complex, the board also voted to allow Crabtree to hire food service consultant McFarland Kistler at a cost of $8,140 to study the existing serving areas and determine the pros and cons of the four options. Board member Michael Martin voted against paying the extra fee; all others present voted in favor. (Members Menno Riggleman and Karen Sweigart were absent.) The board also heard about a new initiative pairing the district with community partners, including the Elizabethtown Child Care Center and Elizabethtown Area Communities That Care, to enhance early childhood educational experiences and improve school readiness. The program focuses on prenatal through third grade.
The board also approved an Act 93 agreement for administration salaries and benefits in effect until 2025, and a personnel report that includes a title change for business manager Jeffrey Ammerman, to director of finance and operations, to better reflect his role and responsibilities. (His salary will not be increased, district spokesman Troy Portser said.) As discussed at the Sept. 10 workshop meeting, the board approved contracts through Market Street Sports: with Wheatland Federal Credit Union for the stadium scoreboard sign, and CommunityAid Thrift Stores for the stadium ticket booth. It also approved a contract for a communications software platform called Awareity that would help the district’s threat assessment team analyze information on possible risks. The first-year cost is $6,738; the Elizabethtown Rotary Club will contribute $1,000. In addition, the board approved for first reading a policy on crowdfunding.
In citizen comments, Stephanie Kardohely, the parent of a third-grader at Bainbridge Elementary, said that because of the large number of students in the second- and third-grade wing, a small-group room is being used for a homeroom for 22 students. Kardohely, a paraprofessional at East High Street Elementary, asked if the room has been evaluated for safety concerns.