A project 50 years in the making finally broke ground last Wednesday as the Pierce Joint Unified School District began construction on its 4,500 square foot multipurpose room and cafeteria. The project came to life as part of the district’s recent bond measure passed by Arbuckle voters.
“It’s long overdue,” said Carol Geyer, PJUSD Superintendent. “We found a clipping from an old newspaper back in the 1960s where the community was seeking to build a new cafeteria at the high school. So this topic has been on the community’s mind for quite some time.”
As the district was developing its facility master plan in 2015, the cafeteria multi purpose room kept surfacing as a priority project.
“The topic kept popping up as a priority project, so we began discussing on how to address the problem,” said Geyer.
With Pierce High School built in 1937, the old cafeteria wasn’t providing adequate room for its staff and faculty.
“We have over 440 students at the high school, and no one wanted to go into the cafeteria because it was so small. Kids didn’t want to wait in the long lines, and when they did, there wasn’t a place to eat.”
As a temporary solution, the district attempted to provide outdoor seating for the students.
“When I first became superintendent of the district, we put that shade structure up out back to try and help with the overcrowding,” said Geyer. “But the kids were okay with sitting on the floor eating their lunches. It has become a tradition at our high school, their parents did it and for some their grandparents too.”
With the project setting prescience as a priority, a lack of funding was keeping the project on a wish list.
“We have some developer fee dollars that were to be earmarked for the project, and we’re hoping to apply for state funding,” said Geyer.
Although the state didn’t have any funding available or had funding available in a long time, Geyer said that the district needed to have its plans ready to submit at a moments notice.
In June of last year, the district initiated a bond measure, which had overwhelming support.
“A majority of the community was in favor of the bond measure, and it passed,” said Geyer. “The day after the bond was passed, the district submitted its plans for the multipurpose room and plans were approved back in April.”
According to Trent Sommers, project architect, the multipurpose room should take about 13 months to complete and be open by the 2018-19 school year.
“The one thing that I am going to like about this project is that it is going to impact all of the schools,” said Sommers. “We have set the multipurpose room as the central kitchen for all the schools. This is going to be a significant change from the current situation, and all of the schools will benefit. Not only will there be plenty of space to cook, but an opportunity to expand menus and opportunities.”
The 4,500 square foot facility will not only serve the purpose as a cafeteria but provide a flexible space for students and the community.
“We wanted to develop it as a place that can be used to host community events, a place for after school activities and more,” said Sommers. “This is a great first bond project because all of the schools will benefit from it.”
Sommers added the multipurpose room is in line for possible state funding, which will help mitigate bond dollars for other projects if approved.
As for the students, Pierce Principal, Nicole Newman said the new multi purpose room meets the needs of the students.
“We have some great kids here at Pierce High School, and they deserve the best,” said Newman. “We are thankful that the community passed the bond to make the project possible.”
Newman added that she was amazed by the design and aesthetics of the new building.
“The architect has done a fantastic job with making the building fit with our current school and making it an overall enjoyable space,” said Newman.
In addition to breaking ground, the district is working on renovating classrooms, updating electrical, plumbing, and security services. The district is currently working on plans to renovate the high school gym locker rooms, construct new classrooms at the elementary school, and other bond related projects. ■