Washington County Public Schools is looking into the idea of renting space to serve as a cafeteria for Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in downtown Hagerstown, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said.
Three companies submitted proposals to provide that space — Bridge of Life, Professional Arts Associates and 28 South Potomac St. LLC, Michael said. All three sites are near the arts school at 7 S. Potomac St.
Incoming students to the arts school, which opened in a renovated downtown building in August 2009, were made aware that the school does not have cafeteria space, Michael said. Students eat in classrooms, hallways and other available space in the school, Michael said.
“It’s a big picnic. They go wherever they can to eat,” said Jeff Proulx, food and nutrition services supervisor for the school system.
As student enrollment grows at the arts school, it would be beneficial to students and food services to provide a cafeteria-type space, Michael said after Tuesday’s Facilities Committee meeting. The school’s enrollment has grown from 146 students when the school opened in 2009 to 262 students at the start of this school year, according to the school and school system documents.
While school system officials requested the proposals for the space, they need to review the proposals, whether they would meet the school’s needs, the logistics involved, the costs and whether the funding could be worked out, Michael said. The cafeteria space is not a budgeted item.
Providing cafeteria space for the arts school has not been approved nor endorsed, but is an option school system officials are exploring, Michael said.
The matter is tentatively scheduled to be presented to the school board at its Sept. 18 meeting, if staff thinks it can move forward with the project enough to bring it to the board, Michael said. If the board approves of the project, students could have a cafeteria space as early as October, he said.
Michael told the Facilities Committee the space that school system officials were exploring would be primarily for a cafeteria, but ideally could serve other types of uses before and after lunch.
There was some mention at the committee meeting of space for storage. Michael said the school has a storage issue, especially when it prepares theater productions.
The school has four floors, so logistically serving lunch to students can be a challenge, Michael said.
If the school system moves forward with renting cafeteria space for the arts school, Michael said he expects there would be two lunch shifts.
The school system’s full menu is not available at Barbara Ingram, Proulx said. Hot food that easily can be packaged at a satellite cooking site and held for service without degradation is served there, according to an email from Proulx.
Hot turkey sandwiches, spaghetti, stuffed shells and baked fish with fruit mango salsa cannot be served at the arts school because the equipment needed to hold those foods and serve them properly is not available there, Proulx said.
Such items might be made available to Barbara Ingram students if cafeteria space is provided, but it depends on the space, he said. Factors include whether the school system would have 24-hour access to the space and what equipment could be kept there, he said.
The space Bridge of Life proposed for cafeteria use is a banquet facility that can accommodate 175 people, Executive Pastor Dan Poyner said. Bridge of Life is at 14 S. Potomac St., across the street from the arts school.
28 South Potomac St. LLC owns property at 28 S. Potomac St., which is on the other side of the street from the school and houses a restaurant, 28 South, that is to open soon. The restaurant is leasing the space from Demcore Development. Demcore President Mike Deming could not be reached to determine which space in the building was being proposed for cafeteria use.
Professional Arts Associates owns the building at 5 Public Square, which is next door to the arts school.
The space available for a cafeteria is half of the ground floor, which has two kitchen areas with kitchen equipment, said Catherine Schoen, Professional Arts Associates’ vice president and chief operating officer.
The area can be entered from the front or rear of the building, which is off an alley the building shares with the school, she said.
“Clearly, it makes things easier for our operation” to have a cafeteria space, Proulx said.
But mainly, he said, it’s about the students. They would have a space to eat and the school system could offer them more lunch options, he said.