By MARGIE NETZEL - firstname.lastname@example.org
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
Jaimie Au turned her head left and right, taking in her first look of St. John School’s new cafeteria and kitchen.
“This is amazing,” she said.
A group of students got a sneak peek at the $1 million addition to what was Saybrook Elementary and is now Ashtabula County’s only kindergarten through 12th grade school. St. John School took ownership of the building from the Ashtabula Area City Schools last year, moved classes from the original Catholic school on Station Avenue, and changed the name from Saints John and Paul to St. John. The building did not have a working cafeteria, so students used the basement space for lunch as money was raised and volunteers stepped forward to build the addition.
“We couldn’t have put more into one year if we tried,” Sister Maureen Burke said.
School administrators will open the new addition to the public Sunday for an open house and celebration, Burke said.
Students will begin using the cafeteria for lunch the second week in April, Burke said.
Burke said the addition would have cost the school $1 million, but much of that cost was mitigated through in-kind donations of building materials and contractor services and volunteer workers. The addition includes the eating area, food preparation and service area, and will eventually include an outdoor courtyard.
“A lot of the work here was done by volunteers, friends and family members,” Burke said. “If we were to build this, out of pocket, it would have cost more than $1 million.”
Burke said the school board considered using the gymnasium as a cafeteria and also considered renovating the school’s basement before deciding to build the 5,000-square-foot addition.
The board broke ground for the space in September and will host the open house exactly one year from the day they announced the school’s move to the Saybrook Township building.
Student Alicia Lewis said the new space is “way nicer” than eating in the basement.
“This really exceeds our expectations,” student Mike Zullo said.
Au said it means a lot to her to have a real cafeteria to close out her senior year.
“This looks like a real high school now,” she said. “Moving from the old building to the new one, this just didn’t feel like our school before.”
The open house will begin with a ribbon cutting by the Ashtabula Area Chamber of Commerce at 2 p.m. and will include a walk-through of the new space and refreshments until 4 p.m.