1. The Education Gradebook

Summer renovations bring cafeteria improvements to schools

Cafeterias in four schools were brighter, more colorful and more inviting as students lined up for lunch at the start of the new school year.

The cafeterias at Westside Elementary School, Fox Chapel Middle School, Central High School and Brooksville Elementary School all underwent significant updating this summer, particularly in the serving areas.

There were differences among the schools. But, Lori Drenth, director of food and nutrition services, explained that they all got new serving lines to aesthetically improve the areas, make them more efficient and separate them from the kitchen.

"This remodeling," Drenth said, "differentiated serving from the prep area."

All of the schools got new serving-line flooring with designs in it, new lighting and "fresh, colorful, modern paint," she said. "We worked with an architect and designer."

They provided color combination choices, and the district chose four different ones — one for each school.

Three of the schools got new pass-throughs — warmers and coolers in the wall that separate the kitchen from the serving area. Kitchen workers open a door in the pass-through and place food on one of the shelves within. Servers on the line can open a door and remove food as needed.

Brooksville Elementary already had a relatively new pass-through; the other three schools got new ones.

Central High, Brooksville Elementary and Fox Chapel Middle schools received new kitchen floors. Brooksville Elementary has a new hood over the cooking equipment. Central High has a new walk-in cooler and freezer and air conditioning in the kitchen.

Although these four schools had the most renovations, Drenth said, "every single one of our schools have at least one new piece of equipment, but we continue to use funds that we have to improve and replace outdated equipment with new updated equipment."

Julie Vairo is the Westside Elementary School cafeteria manager and is in her 15th year. She also manages the Deltona Elementary cafeteria. She said the changes at Westside "made it beautiful. It was overdue for a serving area renovation."

Her new floor and paint are greens and yellows. Attractive, glowing globes provide the lighting. There are new computer stands to check the students out after they have selected and collected their lunches.

It wasn't part of this summer's renovations, but Vairo added that last year her cafeteria received a new oven from the industrial manufacturer Baxter. Vairo said the district entered Westside in a national contest, and the school won.

And now she has a new serving line.

"I'm very happy," she said. "We were so very excited to start the new year with new equipment."

Drenth has had positive feedback from the schools.

"On the whole," she said, "they have been really proud of their serving areas."