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Expanded, improved cafeteria just part of the over-all facelift
The new and improved cafeteria features upgraded counters. The floors are also new. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Manteca High students and staff had a $1.4 million reason to celebrate Friday.

While the day’s lunch-time event was billed as a grand re-opening of the school’s newly remodeled cafeteria – it received the lion’s share of the over-all face-lift – some of the money went into other safety-related school improvements. Being the oldest high school campus in the Manteca Unified School District, the school did have a number of areas where it needed to be ADA-compliant (per the American Disabilities Act) and make it more wheelchair-accessible.

Inside the cafeteria where students line up to place their meal orders, a portion of the counter has been lowered for this purpose. Outside, one of the two windows where food orders also can be taken was built a few inches lower than the other outlet.

Just outside the cafeteria in the back where several small freezers have been flushed against the wall is a pair of concrete ramps. Where did the freezers go? Inside the cafeteria where there is now a spacious walk-in freezer. This move left a good-sized empty spot on the wall where the freezers used to be. Principal Frank Gonzales has an idea on what should fill the empty space. He plans to have a mural painted on the wall, with the theme to revolve around eco-friendly messages that hopefully will inspire the students to become environmentally conscious about the future of the planet. Since Manteca High is an award-winning campus made famous by its collection of murals – 221 all together – painted by the students of now-retired art teacher Kirk Giovannoni, the principal’s plan is not really out of place. In fact, the side of the building across from the cafeteria already features several student paintings.

A slice of the $1.4 million remodeling budget also went into upgrading four restrooms on campus plus a dedicated handicapped restroom for girls. This restroom was upgraded in such a way that it now affords added privacy, explained Gonzales. The main thing that was changed was the installation of a privacy wall that separates the wash area from the stall.

Classroom hallways as well as the handicapped parking area in front of the administration office likewise have been upgraded for optimum safety. Concrete side-guards along the walkways in between classrooms were put up for added safety.

Inside the kitchen in the cafeteria, workers now have a walk-in refrigerator as well as a more spacious dry-goods storage. All these stream-lining resulted in more elbow-room for the workers, Joyce Rubalcaba of the Manteca Unified’s Nutrition Services pointed out. It also translated into more energy efficiency in the school cafeteria, she said.

Cafeteria remodeling improved acoustics, added uses for facility

The principal proudly pointed out that one of the big improvements made in the cafeteria is the built-in PA system. No longer do they have to use the portable unit, which is more for outdoor use, Gonzales said. With the new public address system being more efficient, the cafeteria can be utilized for more gatherings such as staff meetings.

All these modernizations were not lost on the excited Buffalo students who came up with a variety of fun things to celebrate the occasion. These included spirited performances in the quad in front of the cafeteria by the cheerleaders, spirit club members, and the school choir during the two lunch periods around noon.

“Our cafeteria looks better,” said Anahi Candelas as she picked up her lunch Friday.

“It looks more alive,” rejoined her friend and senior classmate, Myrna Arteaga.

Senior Ruby Williams pronounced the newly improved cafeteria “comfortable.”

Plus, she said, “we have more inspiration now.”

“It’s pretty awesome,” commented an excited Makeila Hofer, a sophomore and one of the cheerleaders who were giving a performance on Friday.