Redefining dining |

Redefining dining

Nevada Union High School’s $5.4 million renovation of the cafeteria into a multi-use room is expected to be finished in October, with a grand opening later that month, Assistant Superintendent Karen Suenram said Thursday.

The project, the largest in several years at the school, is designed to give the students better food choices, a more comfortable place to eat and a place to socialize or hold large events.

“This cafeteria was not designed for 2,400 students,” Suenram said while giving a tour of what is now a construction site. “So it’s been our plan for a while to modernize and expand the kitchen and cafeteria.”

The Ridge Road school was built in 1961 and had around 1,500 students at the time.

Money for the project comes from the state of California and a $15 million bond measure voters approved in 2002 that has been used to help fund a number of projects in the district, including a new pool and theater at Bear River High School, Suenram said.

The new cafeteria will be more than 3,000 square feet bigger, making it a nearly 10,000-square-foot room with expansive skylights, a covered patio, a media wall with a large screen, a removable stage and a sound system. Work on the project began Dec. 1.

“We want to make this an inviting, bright space for students to congregate,” said Suenram. School officials have no plans at this time to close the campus when the cafeteria project is completed, Suenram said.

Instead, the school district wants to create a space where students will want to eat and serve as a place for dances and other activities. It will also be made available to the public.

In addition to the structural changes, the school’s cafeteria will be expanding its menu, Suenram said.

In the past, the school primarily served frozen foods that students would pop into a microwave. The new cafeteria will have fresh food prepared by school employees.

For $3.50, students will be able to buy a meal from one of five stations offering Mexican, Italian and Asian food and sandwiches, salads and pizza.

“It’s going to more like a food court at the mall,” Suenram said.

Paul Palmer, the director of facilities and construction for the school district, said the cafeteria can seat as many as 740 students during the lunch hour. For special events such as dances, the capacity jumps to 1,500, he said.

The kitchen is doubling in size to approximately 2,600 square feet, Palmer added.

In addition to the work to the cafeteria, the school is renovating the Black Box Theater, the venue for its student plays.

The theater, which is adjacent to the cafeteria, is getting new cabinets, doors, windows, sprinklers, paint and a heating and air-conditioning unit.

“It’s essentially a complete remodel,” Palmer said.

If all goes according to plan, the school expects to hold a grand opening on Oct. 27, Suenram said.

“Our kids deserve this,” she said. “They need a nice place to have a relaxing lunch.”

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail or call 477-4239.

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