Clarenceville closes campus for lunch, opens new $1.5 million cafeteria
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – August 30, 2012 –Clarenceville High School students Harry Zhen and Kelly Wilson don't like that they won't be able to leave campus for lunch this school year, but they like the new $1.5 million cafeteria they'll be eating in.
“It's amazing,” said Zhen, a senior, of the 6,000-square-foot cafeteria with big-screen televisions and wifi access built on the school's former courtyard. “This is very well-executed. It was not what I expected.”
“I think it looks really great,” said Wilson, a junior. “It's bigger and it doesn't have just tables but cocktail-type tables.”
Zhen and Wilson viewed the cafeteria for the first time Monday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by school board members, Livonia Mayor Jack Kirksey, state Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, other dignitaries, students and parents.
School board Vice President Matt Boettcher said he had been wanting to close the campus for lunch since he was first elected in 1997. “As a lawyer, you see liability everywhere,” he said, of the dangers of letting students drive to and from restaurants during the middle of the school day, with them often getting back to school late.
But there were two problems: tradition and space, he said.
Like building ship in bottle
Some parents, including some board members over the years, didn't want to deny their children or grandchildren the same rite-of-passage they enjoyed attending Clarenceville High: being able to leave school for lunch.
In addition, the old cafeteria was too small to accommodate all the students without having some of them start eating lunch as early as 10:30 a.m.
In the end, Boettcher said he was the only board member to vote in March 2011 against closing campus — but only because he didn't think a cafeteria could be built on time. “I didn't think this was possible,” he told the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I really had no faith that we could do this.
“I'm astonished and so proud of what everyone was able to accomplish.”
Boettcher said the project, the district's biggest in nearly two decades, was like building a ship in a bottle since the courtyard was surrounded by walls on all sides. A crane had to be used to lift some equipment over the walls. Another wall had to be broken through to gain access.
The first shovel went into the ground in early spring, and the finishing touches were made last week.
Gino J. Del Pup of Plante Moran Cresa in Southfield, the project manager, congratulated the school district and the community on “a pretty awesome cafeteria.
“I never realized the passion this school board had,” he said, adding that's what helps to make Clarenceville special. “A lot of that goes unnoticed by the community.”
He said the general contractor, Braun Construction Group of Farmington Hills, worked with integrity and speed. “We told you we'd be ready for school,” he said.
Design based on wish list
Superintendent Pamela Swert said the cafeteria was built based on a wish list created by the community a year ago. “This is what you were telling us you wanted,” she said.
The cafeteria, designed by French & Associates, seats 310 and is large enough to feed all the students in two shifts. Part of the courtyard remains, where students can go outside to eat when the weather is nice.
School board President Sharon Simpson said the cafeteria, decorated in the school colors of red, white and gray, will also to be used as a multi-purpose room for staff and community meetings.
“We tried to make it more hip, nice and bright,” she said.
It was financed with money from the district's 4.5-mill sinking fund, approved by voters in 2006.
Since the district will be serving more students, it will be hiring the equivalent of 2 1/2 additional full-time people at the high school, said David Bergeron, assistant superintendent for business and finance.
It will also be revamping its lunch program to meet new federal nutrition standards and broaden the selection, he said.
As a result, lunch prices at the high school and middle school will increase from $2.50 to $2.75, at the elementary level from $2.25 to $2.40.
Zhen said that while he likes the new cafeteria, he'll have to wait and see what he thinks of the new cafeteria food. “That's still a mystery right now,” he said.
Original Article Provided by Observer & Eccentric. Written by: Karen Smith