Kelley School’s cafeteria recently received a new look, feel and name.
New tables in varying shapes, sizes and colors are drawing smiles and comments from students at the grades 3-5 school. The tables are configured in three sections in the Red Fox Cafe to give students more space and a choice about who and how many other students they will sit with during lunch.
The biggest positive, many say, is not having to sit at long rows of tables like in a dated, military mess hall with just their class members.
“I like that you can sit at different tables with friends from different classes,” fifth-grader Felicity Brey said. “Lunch is a lot more fun.”
“I like the style and better conditions,” Alana Bedell said.
Holland Shutter agreed with her fellow students.
“They’re different shapes and you don’t have assigned seats,’’ Shutter said.
“I love it,’’ Colin Trueblood said. “It’s really great.”
Much of the cafeteria transformation took place during spring break in April, but planning started months earlier.
Principal Jeff Hamelinck and Assistant Principal Kerri Levine decided early this school year they wanted to find a way to make lunch more conducive to social interaction by students. The tired, regimented feel of the cafeteria inhibited that, so they both sought input during lunch periods from students last fall on how they’d like to see the cafeteria transformed. They also received input on the style of cafeteria tables by showing students pictures from catalogs provided by Newark Central School District food service manager Warren Bushart, who helped facilitate new design plans.
Finally, three different proposed cafeteria layouts were shown to students. The one most students wanted was implemented. The walls were also painted.
The new tables include eight booths that are adjacent to the west wall. That area, referred to as the VIP section, is assigned to classes that win the most PAWS points for exemplary behavior for a month.
Fifth-grader Dominic Palmer said he felt “really important” when he and other members of Alicia Nardozzi’s class qualified to sit in the VIP section.
“It was really cool,’’ he said.
The cafeteria makeover included repurposing the acoustic panels on the walls, which are now being used as bulletin boards and murals with the help of cafeteria monitors and school staff members.
Some painting to the upper portion of the walls in the room will be done by custodial staff this summer. Other plans for next year may include having a section where students who have finished eating their lunch can create things from common, everyday items and a reading area.
Hamelinck and Levine think the cafeteria makeover has boosted school spirit.
“The students really love going to lunch now,’’ Hamelinck said. “It has given them a much more relaxed atmosphere in which they can eat and talk with their friends.”
“It gives the students a sense of some freedom and some independence in a structured setting,’’ Levine said.