East Carter School District opens new cafeteria and storm shelter

Monday, November 30, 2009
East Carter Junior High students drop off trays after their first lunch period in the district's new cafeteria. The building doubles as a community storm shelter. Pictured are (from left) Josh Hartley, Joseph Thurman, Diego Meza, Jake Johnson, Megan Mullins and Brittany Hall. Photo by Donna Farley.

ELLSINORE -- As East Carter High School students filed in for lunch Monday, for the first time there were tables for all 240 students.

The district opened its new cafeteria/storm shelter this week. The new building has 7,900 square feet, compared to the approximately 1,800 square feet previously used in the high school addition to seat students in seventh through 12th grades for meals.

It is the first new building at the campus since the high school addition was completed in 1996.

"Everybody has a seat and a table," said Superintendent Daniel Slack, as junior high students lined up for trays during the first lunch shift. "At the other place, when the (high school) students came, there were never enough seats. We would have them sitting down the hallways on the floor."

The old lunchroom accommodated a crowded group of 120 junior high students, but not the high school students, Slack said. The new cafeteria has seating for 176 more students.

The structure cost about $1.8 million, with a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant paying for approximately $1,050,000. The rest came from district reserves, Slack said.

"We wouldn't have been able to do this (without the grant)," he said. "It wouldn't have been a wise idea."

During inclement weather, the building will serve as a storm shelter and has been constructed to withstand an F-5 tornado. The shelter has restrooms and a generator, which comes on automatically in a power outage.

Students, staff, and Ellsinore residents will be able to take shelter at the building when school is in session, Slack said. This comprises Tornado Protection Zone 1. The shelter is open to people in Tornado Protection Zone 2, or anyone in the district, outside of school hours.

The district is still refining its emergency procedures, but someone will be on call to open the building after school hours, Slack said.

Not only the seating area, but the kitchen was cramped before the move, said Mary Sloan, East Carter OPAA food director. The serving line was previously pushed into the small kitchen and food preparation area, with an a la carte line nearby.

The serving line has been moved to the new cafeteria, with a separate area for the a la carte line. The a la carte line is set to expand, said Sloan.

"We'll have more opportunity for different things now, to bring in more variety for the a la carte," she said. "We're also thinking about adding a specialty bar. This is going to be wonderful."

The old cafeteria space will be converted to a classroom, Slack said.

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