Pierce Joint Unified School District students, administrators, and community members cut a ceremonial yellow ribbon, on Aug. 1, 2018, to officially open the new Pierce High School cafeteria and multi-purpose room in Arbuckle.

When Pierce College was built in Arbuckle in 1937, its tiny cafeteria was never designed to meet the technological, educational, and environmental needs of hundreds of students in the 21st century.

But just one year after breaking ground on a new building at Pierce High School, a project that was more than 50 years in the making was completed.

The grand opening of the new 8,800 square-foot multipurpose room, which includes 2,500 square-feet of new kitchen space and a dining facility that seats 280 people, was held on Aug. 1, with school staff, students, and people from the community in attendance.

“We are elated to have the community share this moment with us,” said George Parker, capital projects manager. “If it wasn’t for the vision of people committing bond dollars, this project could not go forward. These buildings are legacy buildings. They withstand the test of time and will be here for many years.”

The new facility resembles the primary architecture of the 80-year-old campus on the outside, but it has a wealth of modern amenities on the inside, including a large cooking area that is capable of churning out 1,400 meals at a time, if necessary.

The kitchen area has a large walk-in refrigeration area that can be accessed from two sides, large food storage areas, an office, staff breakroom and restrooms.

“I’m so excited to be here and get this year going,” said Stacie Velazquez, the Pierce High School graduate who took over as the district’s new food service director in June when Marla Pagliai retired.

The multi-purpose room has modern ADA restrooms, energy efficient lighting, heating and air-conditioning, Wi-Fi for students to use with their electronic devices, and an audio-visual system with two large screens.

The new building is designed not only as a hub for student activities, but also as a facility that can accommodate community and public events,” said Superintendent Carol Geyer.
“Without the community and tax payers this wouldn’t be possible,” she said.

Geyer said the school board discussed the need for a multipurpose room and new cafeteria in the 1960s, but until voters passed Measure B in 2016, no amount of district revenue could have made such a construction project possible.
Measure B was the $15 million dollar general obligation bond initiative that authorized funding for major repairs, renovations, and construction projects throughout the district. Plans also include renovating the high school gym locker rooms and constructing eight new classrooms at the elementary school, which should get underway this fall.
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Pierce High School has about 425 students, although the new kitchen facility will eventually provide food service for the entire district, which has more than 1,400 students, Geyer said.

“For this year, we will be cooking only for just Pierce High School, because we want to get set up and going,” she said. “But eventually the idea is for it to be a central kitchen.”
Meanwhile, district officials can’t wait for students to take advantage of what the new cafeteria can offer.

“We want them to come in a say, ‘I want to eat here. This is our place.’”
Student Body President Kathy Corona said she was excited to see a facility that speaks to the future of Pierce High School.

“As a senior, I’m looking forward to coming in and using this building, and starting something new with it,” Corona said. “It will allow us to be more social. I’m almost sad as a senior to be leaving when we have this building now, but I’m looking forward to using it while I’m here.”

Parker said constructing buildings like the new multipurpose room is a team effort, requires a commitment to maintain, and trust from the community.

“Soon you will see more buildings like this,” Parker said. “It’s amazing what this community can deliver when teachers, administrators, and parents come together with one goal.”

Pierce staff got to use the kitchen for the first time last Friday, when the high school hosted a daylong, district-wide staff meeting.