Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

January 22, 2014

Tahlequah Public School plans new cafeteria at Cherokee Elementary

TAHLEQUAH — When Tahlequah Public Schools set in motion the reconfiguration of its elementary sites, it revealed another issue the district wanted to address.

Moving the fifth grade back to the elementary schools will increase enrollment by dozens of students at each school. TPS recognized the addition of students will create some strain at Cherokee Elementary.

“This plan for Cherokee came out of the elementary reconfiguration discussion,” said Lisa Presley, TPS superintendent. “This was one of our discoveries during a year of study by the committee.”

TPS wants to convert the Cherokee cafeteria into classroom space and build a new cafeteria.

“They will need the room,” Presley said. “The cafeteria at Cherokee is almost identical to the one at Sequoyah Elementary. It can serve about 200 at a time. Cherokee might be able to limp along with that for a short time, but ultimately, it won’t be adequate.”

The planning is in the earliest stages; Presley was to discuss opening the bidding process at a Tuesday meeting with district staff. But TPS envisions a new cafeteria with double the seating capacity, similar to the new cafeteria at Greenwood Elementary.

“Another negative of the Cherokee cafeteria is the kitchen,” Presley said. “It is one of the smallest in the entire district. It is also outdated, with a limited capacity to prepare meals and meet the needs of the child nutrition program.”

Presley said any construction would probably last until the start of the 2015-’16 academic year.

“We still haven’t set any deadlines, but obviously sooner is better,” she said. “We have talked about completing the work by this fall, but that seems unlikely. We’re thinking next fall [2015] is more realistic.”

Marissa McCoy, Cherokee principal, said the school would “make do” through the 2014-’15 year.

“We will still have the ability to meet the needs of our students, but we will lose a lot of space,” McCoy said. “We’ll be full. The construction will give us some more room.”

New construction will house the cafeteria, while the old dining space will be converted to classrooms.

“It is yet to be determined, but we are looking at placement of the cafeteria to the north of the building, perhaps to the northeast,” Presley said. “We want to capture space for two classrooms, perhaps three. They will similar in size to other classrooms at Cherokee, capable of handling a class of 20-plus students.”

The project may also work on the building’s interior and exterior.

“The windows on the west side of the building are due for an update,” Presley said. “They are probably the windows that were originally installed. Replacement will improve the building’s efficiency and aesthetics. There is also paneling all through the building that we would like to remove - some, if not all. We’ve been kidding around that we must have gotten a bargain on paneling sometime during the 1970s.”

Because the Cherokee renovation is a nascent project, Presley could not provide its cost. However, she said the district hopes to spend roughly the same amount of money as on the cafeteria renovation at Greenwood Elementary, which cost $2.3 million.

“No new sources will be needed to pay for the project,” she said. “The bond fund passed by voters in 2009 still holds enough money.”

McCoy said parents should anticipate some inconveniences during the construction once it begins - the school board must approve any bids - though the district will try to minimize them.

“Mostly, we just ask that parents be patient,” she said. “The construction will go on for a while, but it will be for the kids. I’m not sure what the delays might be, but it could involve pickup or bus lines. However, once it is over, it will be fantastic.”

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com

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