Inside Information about LHS Cafeteria Renovations


Ashley Sanchez

The lunchroom is currently undergoing various pronounced changes, making it the first time in almost fifty years that the kitchen and structure have been altered. The new attributions will feature a coffee bar, different quality food and new wallpaper.

It’s the end of the cafeteria as we know it. Changes are underway to revitalize the centerpiece of LHS, starting in the immediate future. Estimated to be completed in one to three years, the cafeteria will undergo a full refresh and redesign, carefully handcrafted and tailored to meet the needs of the student body.

The renovations will focus on new accommodations, including providing students with different seating options. A key focus is making the cafeteria environment more inviting and spacious, featuring soothing paint colors and fresh wallpaper, as well as incorporating new and improved furniture. 

Proceeding with this operation is LHS’s top priority, according to Dr. Koulentes. Taking the concerns of both students and staff in mind, he plans on replacing and updating kitchen equipment where lunches are prepared as one of the changes.

Reasons For the Renovations

There are a couple of reasons for the big changes. “I would say it was two main things.” Dr. Koulentes said. “First, anytime you are running a building, like a school, an office, or even a house, you know that all of your equipment has a limited lifespan.” This is exemplified by the fact that the equipment in the cafeteria’s kitchen, including the ovens, sinks, and refrigerators, are around fifty years old. The second reason, according to Dr. K, was because of “the Principal Advisory Board and [from] talking with the students.” The Principal Advisory Board is a group of students that meets once a month to discuss various aspects of LHS and the day to day life within. 

“The cafeteria was an area where the students thought, ‘maybe we could make it better in different ways.’” Dr K said. “Everything from the food that we serve in there, to the design of the cafeteria, to how long it takes to get food when you have to stand in line, to accessibility for people with disabilities. All of that was brought up as an issue.” 

Dr. K took students’ advice as a sign that change was needed. The school has already begun various renovations in the cafeteria to better meet the needs and desires of not just the students involved with the project, but the student body of LHS as a whole. 

“We are aiming to have the first step be offering students different types of seating, per the request of students who work on the student board,” Dr. K explained. Counter seating, window seating and private, quiet areas for students to focus on homework are all part of his plan, a needed substitute from the current seating arrangement of only rickety round tables crammed into a thousand or so square feet.

Faculty and Student Input

Due to the sheer size and scale of the project, Dr. Koulentes is far from the only person involved with the cafeteria renovations. Another key figure in these renovations is Ms. Singleton, English teacher and the school’s equity coordinator, who works closely with the Culture and Climate group associated with the Principal Advisory Board. 

“At the beginning of the year when we first met, we just talked in general about public spaces here at school, and how those spaces felt and how we wanted them to feel,” Ms. Singleton said. “The cafeteria came up as one spot where, for students who feel overwhelmed by noise and sound and just a lot of activity, is a really uncomfortable place to be.”

Since November 2021, Rishi Tipparti, a freshman and member of the Principal Advisory Board, has taken part in the progression and development of plans to renovate the cafeteria. 

Having worked closely with Ms. Singleton, the head of the board, she along with her subcommittee selected wallpaper and new furniture based on the theme of calmness.

 Tipparti also took part with her subcommittee in designing the layout for said furniture within the cafeteria as a whole to suit students’ individual needs. With a can-do mindset, Tipparti stated, “…there’s always room for improvement, but the changes the cafeteria is undergoing right now would [probably] only make it better. The changes will give the cafeteria a fresh, new look, and the new furniture will cater to more diverse needs; there will be one- and two-person seating now, for instance. We’re also planning to add booth seating too.” The cafeteria will have more comfortable seating, become less of a sterile environment, and space will be better utilized.

Recent Minor Updates

This will be the first time improvements are being made since February 2020. Melissa VanLue, the Director of Dining Services for D128 since 2019, mentioned that the cafeteria underwent a ‘refresh’ in February of 2020. The refresh introduced new concept stations to the cafeteria. These improvements included the ‘Build Station’, where students can build their own flatbread. Another is the ‘Grill Nation’, where students can purchase hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, french fries and appetizer specials. Still another is the ‘Butcher Baker’, which is a deli station. The fourth and final station is called ‘‘Rooted’, and is a salad bar. For those ‘on-the-go’, market fresh options include veggie cups and bento boxes. There are also authentic cuisines such as Piccola Italia (Italian cuisine) and Pico Mesa (Mexican food). Special promotions are offered in the Create station, such as “Made to Melt” panini sandwiches, stir fry station, baked potato or hot dog bar.

Although the remodel process for the cafeteria is still in its early planning phase, it serves as a sign of positive change and a shift in the right direction. With countless school faculty and staff members working to realize this project, accompanied by students with a clear vision of what they desire, it is very possible that this project, still in its infancy, will become a clear reality over the course of the next few years.

The cafeteria is not only changing visually, but also with its quality of food. The result of changing food providers will allow on-the-go and customizable lunch alternatives for students and staff. (Ashley Sanchez)