WOODSIDE — Eating lunch in a gymnasium may be an odd sensation at first, but it’s one that Polytech High students seem to have gotten used to.
Since the start of the semester they’ve have been lunching in the Tubby Dobrowaski Gymnasium which has been outfitted as a temporary cafeteria.
They will continue to do so until the end of the school year in 2017 as their old cafeteria undergoes an extensive renovation.
“Some people have even made the comment that the gym is so nice we ought to keep it as our cafeteria,” said Mark Dufendach, Polytech School District’s assistant superintendent, “Logistically it’s worked great.
“The only drawback has been that the cafeteria staff have had to transport supplies back and fourth to the kitchen.”
The cafeteria is only one item on an extensive slate of renovations and upgrades which began at Polytech High in June when classes let out for the summer. The project’s scope included redeveloping the cafeteria, kitchen, school store, guidance and wellness offices and various classrooms.
Since the referendum process is unavailable for the Polytech School District, the $10 million in funding needed for the project was obtained via certificate of necessity.
“The vocational school districts that are countywide can’t hold referendums,” said Mr. Dufendach. “The process we go through starts with the district submitting a request to the Department of Education asking for a certificate of necessity.
“Our proposal lays out our needs, and they decide whether or not to approve it. After that, we have to get our state share of the funding through the bond bill just like the other districts do.”
Mr. Dufendach believes there has been little to no complaints about the proposed scope of work because the repairs are modest.
“The cafeteria isn’t being renovated for just aesthetics. The mechanical systems were really not working well and the roof was starting to fail in some spots,” he said. “All of the renovations are as close to a necessity as possible.
“Certainly, we want it to look nice when everything is put back together, but much of this is standard maintenance.”
The kitchen and several classroom renovations were completed over the summer when contractors, managed by the construction firm EDiS, were able to work around the clock. When the school year began, construction areas were cordoned off and work transitioned to a second shift schedule to be minimally invasive to students, Mr. Dufendach said.
Renovations to the guidance and wellness area which include a new glass enclosed reception area, dedicated conference rooms and updated offices are scheduled to be completed by the end of Christmas break. Work on the cafeteria and a new collaborative study area will continue throughout the year and into the summer of 2017.
According to Mr. Dufendach all projects are still on schedule to hit their target completion dates.
The new cafeteria, designed by Wilmington architectural firm BSA+A, is being built to accommodate the school’s growing population and reorganize the kitchen entrance into five serving lines, the first of which is a separate “grab-and-go” line to speed up foot traffic.
The skylights from the old cafeteria will remain in place, but the rest of the ceiling will be rebuilt to include wood accents.
“The project doesn’t introduce any new square footage, and its most visual parts are the kitchen, cafeteria and common area, but throughout the building there are also a lot of basic mechanical upgrades we’re making as well,” said Mr. Dufendach. “This includes heating and cooling systems being replaced, roof sections being repaired, and restrooms and various classrooms being renovated.”
Business teacher John Link Jr. looks forward to the classroom and school store upgrades planned for his department. The school store will be moved to a room that’s adjacent to Mr. Link’s classroom and is to be situated in a such a way that observation and service by his students will be possible.
“We’re teaching the accounting, marketing and bookkeeping that go along with running a store, so it’ll be great for them to be so close to one,” said Mr. Link. “They’ll be getting firsthand experience and if we observe something that happens in the store, we can talk about it and analyze it.”
During the renovations, the existing school store has been relegated to a mobile pushcart. Mr. Link says the cart is useful when it comes to wheeling merchandise to the football games. But the additional retail space will come in useful when the department stocks additional clothing, embroidered and pressed by students, and school supplies. He also hopes to move the rest of the student cash transactions to the school store.
“We’re hoping to be able to sell game and theater tickets there and to pretty much make it the central point for any money transactions by students,” he said.