Shaker Middle School Cafeteria Expansion and Renovation
In New York’s North Colonie Central School District, a growing student population necessitated some significant changes to its schools. Among the major projects included in the $106 million capital project was the expansion and renovation of Shaker Junior High.
The school would go from serving seventh and eighth grades to serving sixth through eighth grades and become known as Shaker Middle. The expansion included adding new space for the school’s cafeteria — a ground-up construction that more than doubled the size of the dining and serving space.
With the new space came a fresh vision for the previously dated cafeteria.
“The old servery was really small,” said Jon Woods, foodservice consultant with Corsi Associates in New York. “It had two straight, double-sided serving lines that offered a pretty basic serving style. There was just no way for that space and that equipment to meet the needs of the new student body.”
The larger space allowed Woods and other project leaders to envision a whole new serving space, one where multiple serving lines prevented bottlenecks that slowed down serving and where the school nutrition team had the resources and tools to develop and implement creative, healthy meals.
Two serpentine-shaped LTI serving lines were installed with decorative lighting, solid-surface tray slides and stand-off front panels to create a high-end feel for the main serving line.
A separate straight line against one side wall provided additional serving space for overflow, a dedicated snack or a la carte area, or other needs.
Lisa Ostrowski, the district’s director of food and nutrition services, said she may seek to convert that line to a dedicated breakfast area with its own “middle school-friendly, Starbucks-style” branding to increase participation.
The orientation of the new lines directs students to enter near the middle of the serving lines and then go either left or right. The two sides of the line act as mirror images, offering the same food in both directions to double the number of students who can be served at once.
Students are then guided to center island cashier stations with attached milk coolers.
“We knew the quality of LTI equipment meant that it would hold up to the kind of heavy use schools get for years to come,” Woods said. “After all, the old serving lines were also from LTI, and more than 15 years later, they were still in good shape.”
The new serving line equipment was outfitted with LTI’s QuickSwitch technology, which allows wells to be hot, cold or frozen. Wells are independently controlled, so hot and cold foods can be served side-by-side, and can switch between temperatures in an hour.
“QuickSwitch is one of the greatest assets of the equipment,” Ostrowski said. “Whether we’re going to do a yogurt bar, an Asian rice and noodle bar, a salad bar — it really gives us the flexibility to try different things and offer some great healthy options. We can set out fresh, appealing foods so much better than in the old ‘one shot’ line where you’ve basically just got a chicken patty to go.”
QuickSwitch Ceran glass shelves also increased the flexibility by using vertical space where everything from packaged salads to hot sandwiches can be safely served.
The newly renovated middle school was slated to welcome its first class of sixth graders for the 2020-21 school year, but adjustments made due to COVID delayed those plans by a year. The school is currently being used by elementary school students, and the cafeteria is essentially acting as a staging area for prepackaged meals to be delivered to classrooms.
Ostrowski said she’s looking forward to being able to put the cafeteria to its intended use.
“Now we’ve got to figure out how to redo the high school cafeteria. When it’s time for these middle school students to move up, it might be a little bit of a letdown when they get to something not nearly so wonderful as this,” she said with a laugh.