Have you been wondering what it looks like behind the temporary walls that block the gallery entrance of the Community Hall? Have you heard rumors of a cafe, two kitchens, and extra classrooms surrounding Merriconeag Hall? Is there a hot lunch program ready to start? When will the workers finish? Who will be using the spaces?
On Friday, Nov. 17, the temporary walls that cut off the gallery area of the CH finally came down! Construction in the cafe and kitchen is nearly finished, and the classrooms on the north side of the building should be finished by the first of January. The timeline for moving into and using most of the new spaces is dependent on several variables including occupancy permits and receipt of furnishings and equipment. For the commercial kitchen, we need to finalize our vision and plan for food service, as well as train the people who will have access to this space and institute a way to schedule its use. (see Next Steps below)
WHAT ARE THE NEW SPACES AND HOW WILL THEY BE USED?
On the south side, near the main entry to the community hall:
The commercial kitchen, equipped with commercial grade appliances (refrigerator, freezer, oven, induction cooktops, dishwasher and multiple stainless steel sinks) can be closed and locked, or fully opened to the café. This flexible design will be ideal as a teaching and working space for all users, from an individual caterer or teacher to a large class or parent group. The commercial kitchen will be used to safely store, prepare and cook food for school festivals and events, culinary arts and class teaching, events or functions hosted by the greater community, and a future snack/lunch program for our students and faculty.
The café will accommodate approx. 45 people seated at small tables, or up to 100 people standing. The space will be used by visitors during events, offer extra classroom space, provide an indoor space during inclement weather, and be a gathering and meeting space for parents, students and faculty. Our vision is that the café could potentially serve as the lunchroom for high school students and possibly a place for others in the community to purchase snacks and/or meals provided by an outside vendor. Double doors exiting directly from the café to the playing field will, in the warmer months, allow for the option of an outside dining and meeting space.
The gallery space is the space between Merriconeag Hall and the café. It has been enhanced with new skylights and light fixtures but otherwise is the same as it was. The gallery space will generally remain open, for people traffic flow, but can accommodate enough tables and chairs to seat an additional 30 people. The wall of windows and double doors separating the café and gallery help dampen sound, but create the feeling of one large space.
The kitchenette off the gallery is a smaller version of the old kitchen. It will have a full refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven, coffee pot and electric tea kettle. It is primarily an open staff kitchen, available to faculty for their personal use, and for extra support space for events using the community hall. It will function much like the previous open kitchen area prior to construction.
On the north side of the community hall, near the back entryway:
Two new music and performing arts classrooms behind the stage will primarily be used for grade school and high school music classes, but will also be staging areas for large theatre and event productions that take place in Merriconeag Hall. A new opening in the backstage wall plus additional storage spaces backstage allow easy storage and transport of people, risers, musical instruments, props and other performing arts stage needs.
An additional office located adjacent to the two new music rooms will be used by grades’ music teachers, keeping the faculty offices near their work spaces.
An instrument and outdoor clothes storage room located just inside the student entry of the community hall will keep our spaces neater, both during school hours and for public events.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR THE COMMERCIAL KITCHEN AND ITS USE?
The design and layout of the commercial kitchen was guided by the variety of current needs that are already active in the school, i.e., festival and events, cooking and preserving from harvested school garden produce, nutrition and cooking electives in the upper grades, school and social gatherings for faculty, students and parents. In addition, the possibility of hosting larger events related to our work, increased rentals outside of normal school hours and the desire to establish a consistent hot lunch program are all in the future planning.
The commercial kitchen will be a locked space. Those wishing to use the space will need to coordinate use through the office for availability and guidelines for equipment use. We will need to train a core group of staff, faculty and parents on the use and care of all the kitchen appliances and systems. Prior to using the kitchen, we have a large number of donated kitchen tools and supplies, currently stored in the barn, which need to be sorted, cleaned, and organized into storage spaces in the kitchen. Lastly, we are still searching for some gently used kitchen furnishings like stainless steel tables and shelving. We would love to hear from you if you can help with any of these tasks.
A group of teachers and parents has agreed to work on an ad-hoc kitchen committee to plan its use, establish food and use priorities based on demand, and consider all requests in accordance with the school’s calendar. They will also be considering future plans of management of the kitchen and its program for the 2018-19 school year. Members of the committee are: Lynne Espy, Christine Sloan, Ann Coltman, Regine Whittlesey, Michele Burkey, Lisa Mainella, Ray Kusche, and Patrick Quigg as advisor.
A lunch program (or more broadly, a food service program) has been at the forefront of our planning of the kitchen since we decided to build the high school on Desert Road. Our first steps are to assess the demand for lunch and snacks and develop a sustainable food service business plan. This past year Christine and Lynne researched four schools’ hot lunch programs: three Waldorf Schools in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts, as well as a charter school here in Maine. These programs all strive to work with local and organic food whenever possible. They all have different approaches—some independent from school management, and others completely integrated in the school program. All face tight financial constraints as school cooks try to balance quality with affordability. We also spoke with a few local business people who could envision a partnership where they use the commercial kitchen for their production purposes, in exchange for providing our lunch program. We will be considering the best option for our kitchen programming with the help of the kitchen committee and our Faculty and Board. If you have experience or interest in any of these areas of kitchen planning, and would like to get involved, please contact Lynne or Christine.
Christine Sloan [email protected] 865-3900 Ext.102
Lynne Espy [email protected] 865-3900 Ext 116