The new halls of San Rafael high school dazzle

The new school year will bring a dramatic upgrade in how and where students at San Rafael High School and the adjacent Madrone Continuation High School eat. That’s because schools in the city of San Rafael, California recently completed construction of its 43,000 square feet. Madrone-Admin-Cafeteria-Kitchen (MACK) construction project which includes a new two-story administrative building, a central kitchen, support spaces, a common area for students and classrooms for Madrone.

MACK is just one part of a larger school facility upgrade in the City of San Rafael that has also produced new kitchens at two other school sites: Terra Linda High School and Venetia Valley K-8.

Schools in the city of San Rafael consist of a school district with three establishments – San Rafael, Madrone and Terra Linda – and an elementary district with eight schools, including six K-5 schools, the Venetia Valley K school. -8 and college. The total enrollment is around 7,200, with three of the elementary schools and Madrone High School operating under Community Eligibility Program (CEP) status due to high poverty rates in their enrollment.

The Bulldog Bistro is the service area of ​​the new San Rafael High School Student Commons and has two outlets, each of which can serve hot or cold food.

“I felt very fortunate to have three new state-of-the-art facilities,” says Alan Downing, Director of Nutrition Services. “We used to operate a central district kitchen at a secondary school, the San Rafael High School kitchen which was the largest in the district, and it was difficult. I started here as an operations manager and when you have a 10×10 freezer out of which you’re trying to cook 3,500-4,000 meals a day, it gets complicated!

The plan for the future is now to continue distributing meals via satellite to district sites other than Terra Linda and Venetia Valley from the new kitchen in San Rafael. The plan for these meals will evolve as the circumstances of the post-pandemic environment emerge, Downing said.

“We’ve always done take out food in our high schools and tried to get three to four scratch dishes a week and always offered three to four entrees a day,” he explains. “The plan for back to school 2021-22 in the school district is one scratch per day that we will try to increase to two per day in the second half of the school year. In elementary school, we humbly start with one scratch post per week and try to turn it into two to three by the end of the school year.

Collegial framework

In addition to the kitchen, MACK includes a Student Commons Building “entirely different from what we had in the past,” Downing said, adding that the Commons department offers lunch to student populations in San Rafael and Madrone apart. . time. San Rafael has around 1,200 students while Madrone has less than a hundred.

“I would compare him to a university executive,” he says of the Commons. “This is a very large room with plush armchairs, a sitting area and small independent study lockers and not your prototype multipurpose room with fold-down tables.”

Cooking_side_2.jpegPhoto: San Rafael’s production kitchen prepares food for most of the district schools and the new facility has the capacity to do so efficiently, unlike the previous undersized kitchen on site.

MACK opened in late 2020, “so we didn’t really have any students on campus at the time” because the district was operating in full distance education first and then in a hybrid system at distance / in person for most of the 2020-2021 period. school year. He implemented a return to in-person classes for those who chose him in the last five weeks of the term last spring, a development that allowed the meal program to try out its new facilities on real clients.

“The district’s focus over the summer is to see where the virus is taking us, what Marin County Health & Human Services is posting as guidelines, what the state is posting as guidelines, and then rethinking how we’re doing. do the meal service, ”Downing said.

The cafe in the Commons building, called the Bulldog Bistro, has two platforms that can serve hot and cold food.

“The intention when we designed this five years ago was for it to be just bulk and self-serve foods, but now, due to the pandemic, we’re trying to reassess how we’re going to do it,” Downing notes.

When some students returned towards the end of the last school year, everything was packed, but for the fall he is considering several options ranging from a return to “normal”, a mid-term plan with a kitchen to scratch. but all individually wrapped, and a plan that all served as a purse and take out.

“With 1,300 students at most, it’s not like a high school with 10,000 where you have to have five different areas,” he says. “At lunchtime, we usually feed maybe 100 to 500 on a good day and get them through quickly and in an orderly fashion. During the pandemic, we talked about having multiple stations on campus, but then you have a staffing issue. “

Additionally, both high schools are open campuses, which means the meal program has to compete with outside vendors. To help compensate, the school had “a fair amount” of a la carte options such as chips, cookies, drinks that could accompany a regular midday meal.

“We haven’t thought about it for the next school year yet,” Downing suggests. “Financially I would love to revive pay-per-view sales, but that means having cash on hand and there has been some setback on that” due to potential security concerns with handling cash .

Meanwhile, with all students expected to return to face-to-face teaching this fall, participation levels remain an open question.

“I’ll have to wait and see if using the transparent summer option for the next school year will significantly increase participation,” notes Downing. “In the last six weeks of school this spring when I had kids on campus, we still had a good percentage of students who opted for distance education. In San Rafael, for example, three or four hundred out of 1,200 chose to take distance education throughout the school year and never came to campus, so I didn’t really understand whether participation was going increase considerably.

Dramatically illustrate the problem

Pre-construction activities by contracting company Alten Construction on the estimated $ 29 million project began in December 2018, and the land was inaugurated the following March. The projects were part of a much larger district facility upgrade underway, although parts affecting the meal program are pretty much complete. Downing is very pleased with the results, noting that an initial experience may have helped produce the type of cooking he needed.

receive_2.jpegPhoto: The new reception area features a loading area that can accommodate multiple delivery trucks and leads directly to a two-door fridge-freezer.

“We had meeting after meeting on what we wanted and what was needed,” he recalls, “so I finally invited the architect and kitchen designer to come over one morning when we were getting a grocery delivery, which turned out to be something like 14 pallets. Meanwhile, the product company was also delivering at the same time, and the architect and kitchen designer were like, “Oh, now I see the problem! Because you had a dozen people in that facility working while it was all delivered to fridges and freezers that didn’t have enough space for them. It opened their eyes and aided the design process.

The new space they created has a loading area to accommodate delivery trucks with plenty of parking space, while inside the delivery area leads directly to a two-person fridge-freezer. doors.

“Now there is plenty of space to easily lower 14 pallets so that everything can be registered and then put away accordingly,” says Downing. “The freezer and refrigerator are big enough to roll up pallets for the show. It’s just completely different from what we used to do, when we were trying to run a district [meal program] out of a [single] high school kitchen.

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