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Construction winds down at Farmington Elementary

Farmington Elementary School cafeteria workers once again have a kitchen of their own to work from.1 / 2
Farmington Elementary School students have noticed all of the natural light that now shines in their cafeteria.2 / 2

A new lunchroom might not seem particularly exciting, but to everyone around Farmington Elementary School, it is just that — a big, bright deal.

After months of moving students around, and adjusting to serve those students, the new lunchroom at Farmington Elementary School opened for student use on Dec. 16. It took a few days to iron out the kinks — getting the timing down, getting students used to the new lunch process — but by the end of the week, everything was moving smoothly.

So smoothly, in fact, that when the holiday break is over and students come back to school, all of FES’s students will be back under one roof for the rest of the school year.

The oldest of the elementary schools in the Farmington school district, FES is just finishing up an extensive renovation project. The most visible part of that project — at least, the most visible from outside the building — is the new two-story northeast corner of the building. That’s where the new cafeteria, and the new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is housed.

Students don’t get to see the HVAC system — it’s up a small stairs that’s off of the new loading dock and tucked away from student accessibility — but it was a necessity to the old school, principal Ben Januschka said.

“That’s where the money went,” he said, “but now we’re up to code.”

A new cafeteria

The new cafeteria was also much needed. The size of the space where kids eat their meals hasn’t really changed much, but the design of the room and the kitchen itself is greatly improved.

In order to save some money, the tables from the previous cafeteria were saved and refurbished, Januschka said. Truth be told, there were few on the market that were built as well as the originals, so new finish was put on the tables and the tables were reinstalled in the new eating space.

The room features lots of natural light, which was something the previous cafeteria didn’t have too much of.

“It was really neat,” Januschka said, “even some of the second- and third grade students were talking about how much they liked the light. They noticed it. Quite a number of kids have commented on how much they like the natural light.”

The layout of the cafeteria is a little different, too. The loading dock, which had previously been visible from the front of the school, has been moved to the east side of the building, next to a side doorway. Likewise, the dumpsters that used to stand out front of the building are less visible in the new location.

“We call this the Pinter Project. Kathy Pinter was a first grade teacher. She’s now retired, but for years, she talked about the garbage containers out in front and what an eyesore it was. Once we started this going, we called it the Pinter Project in her honor,” Januschka said.

A new kitchen

Head cook Jennifer Conrad is also pretty happy with the new facility. She and the FES lunch staff have moved around a lot during the construction, and they’re glad to be in the new kitchen for a number of reasons.

During the construction, the FES cooks had to go to Riverview Elementary School to make the meals that were served at both FES and the Instructional Service Center, where the kindergarten and first grade students have been located during the renovation.

Once the food was ready, it was packed into heated containers and transported to both school locations. The meals were served, but then the dishes had to be cleaned and packed up and taken back to RVES so they could be used the next day.

Much of the equipment has been replaced, as well.

“We had such an old kitchen. All of the equipment was extremely old. Several pieces needed replacement. The ovens didn’t work right,” Conrad said.

The staff really enjoy the new layout and equipment, she added.

“It’s beautiful. I love it. They did such a nice job. Everything flows. It’s perfect,” Conrad said. “It was the best Christmas present we could have asked for.”

More changes

Meanwhile, down the hall from the cafeteria, walls between several of the kindergarten classrooms and first grade classrooms were knocked out and replaced, making the rooms larger.

At the same time, the area used for the temporary kitchen is being renovated so the music room can move across the hall into a larger space. The old music room will become a space for the school counselor and a reading room.

The kindergarten and first grade teachers have started moving into their classrooms at FES. Those rooms should be ready to go by the end of the holiday break, so those students can finish out their school year in the FES building.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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