As cafetorium takes shape, officials visualize the change

The project is expected to be completed in August.
POLAND -- Lunches in a cramped, windowless cafeteria in the basement of Poland Middle School will soon be a thing of the past.
A $3.5-million construction project to add a cafetorium linking the middle school and adjacent McKinley Elementary School will mean new facilities and a safer environment, school officials said.
Not to mention the end of that small, crowded cafeteria.
"The middle school cafeteria was built by the WPA in 1933 and now we will be able to put kids in a nice, new modern above-ground cafeteria in pleasant surroundings," Poland Schools Superintendent Robert L. Zorn said.
What it is
The cafetorium -- a combination of a cafeteria and auditorium -- will be outfitted with small circular or rectangular tables that are portable so the facility can double as a meeting room or host a dance or play or other program for as many as 400 spectators, Zorn said.
McKinley Principal Ed Kempers said his school will pick up a new library/media center, two additional classrooms, new offices and more storage, among other improvements.
McKinley also will also get to replace its current cafeteria, where pupils who push back at all from their tables hit kids at another table, with a facility that is 50 percent larger, though it still will serve the same number of kids.
"We have this tiny, old outdated cafeteria ... [and] we will get a more comfortable, suitable cafeteria with tables that are more spread out," Kempers said.
Poland Middle also will gain new classrooms, a new technology-computer center and more room for office space for a variety of employees, including the arts teacher who serves both schools, Principal Susan Sause said.
The project also involved putting all wiring for the schools underground, checking out the sewer system, moving the school bus loading and unloading area away from College Street and putting in air-conditioning in both facilities.
The two schools, both with enrollment of about 400 pupils, will become the last of the six public schools in the district to get air-conditioning.
"I'll tell you what, in May, that top floor can feel like 100 degrees," Kempers said.
On time, on budget
Kriedler Construction Co. is on time and within budget, and the work, which began last June, is expected to be finished by August, Zorn said.
The school district is using a 5-year-old state law to lease the construction costs and make the payments with the energy savings anticipated from improvements such as a new furnace.
Zorn said the Poland district is the third in the county to use the law in the past few years.
"There is absolutely no cost to the taxpayers in this at all," he said.
Though the shell of the cafetorium is up, much work remains and it's still difficult for teachers or pupils at this point to envision the finished product.
"I think when the kids go into that cafeteria and see it so new and nice and airy, they are going to be so excited," Sause said.

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