Students at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts could have cafeteria space in a church banquet facility across the street from the school as early as Nov. 1, Washington County Public Schools officials said.
The school system recently completed a lease agreement with Bridge of Life for cafeteria and meeting space, Board of Education President Wayne Ridenour said.
High school students at the arts school, which opened in 2009, have been eating lunch in whatever space is available, including hallways and classrooms, school system officials have said.
The annual cost for the first two years of the lease is $38,496, although the first year will be prorated since the school year has already begun, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said. The lease covers 10 months a year, or the school year.
The annual cost for each of the two additional one-year options on the lease is $40,712, Michael said.
Ridenour said the lease is a fair deal. The school system is paying rent, but Bridge of Life will handle utility and insurance costs, and clean the facility, he said.
The lease amount wasn’t large enough to require school board approval, Ridenour said. While there isn’t a specific threshold for lease agreements, the board doesn’t vote on professional service contracts that are less than $50,000, he said.
School officials and students did not request the cafeteria space, but Superintendent Clayton Wilcox and school system officials determined a place to eat was in the best interest of the students and the arts school, Ridenour said.
Having a cafeteria space will require fewer school employees to monitor lunch because students no longer will be eating at various spots throughout the school building, Ridenour said.
The Bridge of Life space could be used without “a bunch of modifications,” though a fire alarm system is being installed, Ridenour said.
Once that work is complete, students will be able to use the cafeteria, Ridenour said.
The school system is reimbursing Bridge of Life $6,935 for the fire alarm system, Michael said.
Cafeteria workers will not cook at the banquet facility, but will be able to serve hot food and the menu could be expanded substantially, depending on how many students buy food from the school menu, Michael said.
Bridge of Life also is providing meeting space, including a conference room that can be used as a classroom, and the school can use the auditorium twice a school year, Ridenour said. The auditorium probably will be used for graduation and for orientation around the start of the school year, he said.
The other two companies that submitted proposals to provide cafeteria space were 28 South Potomac St. LLC, which had property across the street from the school, and Professional Arts Associates, which was next door to the school.
Students already cross West Washington Street to use classrooms at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, Ridenour said. Someone will be there to make sure students get across South Potomac Street safely, Ridenour said.