The Cove School District is making the biggest addition to its campus since the late 1970s, when its high school was built and the popularity of microwave ovens was starting to soar.
The construction of the school district’s $1.8 million food service building, which began early this fall, is now less than four months from completion.
“We are anticipating it should be finished by Feb. 28,” said Earl Pettit, superintendent of the Cove School District.
Pettit said the future building’s initial day of operation is set for March 30, the first day of school after spring break.
The building’s foundation is complete, and framing work began last week. The building’s frame and its roof should be finished in about three weeks. Having the building, about 30 feet east Cove Elementary School, enclosed before winter will be a big plus because contractors will be able to do interior work after inclement weather hits.
Pettit said the building work is on schedule and within its budget.
“I couldn’t ask for a smoother project,” Pettit said.
The Mike Becker General Contractor construction company of La Grande is the general contractor for the project. Design West Architects, which has officers in Meridian, Idaho, Kennewick, Washington, and Pullman, Washington, is the project’s architect.
The food service building will replace the school district’s current cafeteria and kitchen at Cove Elementary School. Pettit said the present cafeteria, where students in all grades eat, is not big enough for a school district like Cove’s, which has about 300 students. The cafeteria has a capacity of just 40 students, so multiple grades are not able to eat in the cafeteria at the same time. This means that class time is lost, and a number of high school students eat their lunches in school building hallways.
The new building will have a capacity of 200, and Pettit said that between 150 and 160 students will be eating there at one time. It will be filled with new kitchen equipment that will replace the outdated appliances the school district now has.
“It is obsolete,” Pettit said of the current kitchen.
The cafeteria building will also have a walk-in freezer and refrigerator for storage, neither of which the school district now has. Pettit said the storage space is so limited now that food is kept at sites throughout the campus, including a freezer in the high school shop area.
“(The increased storage space) will boost the efficiency of our kitchen staff,” Pettit said.
The space where the cafeteria is now will be converted into an office area where counseling services and specialized reading instruction for students can be provided. These services are currently provided in a modular building on campus. The modular will later be removed.
The construction of the building is being paid for with money the school district has been setting aside for capital projects for a number of years, Pettit said. The school district is not taking on any debt for the cafeteria building project.
This represents the Cove School District’s third construction project in the past 25 years. Two additional high school classrooms were built about 10 years ago, and a music room was constructed in the early 1990s.
The school district will continue looking to make campus upgrades following completion of the cafeteria project.
Pettit said the school board soon will vote on approving having an assessment conducted by professional organizations of the school district’s facilities and seismic upgrade needs.
Getting such assessments done would help the school district become eligible for state grants for renovation and upgrades, the superintendent said. It will also give the school district information it needs for planning for the future.
“We want to determine where we are going in the decades ahead,” Pettit said.