SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Kathy Bliss is sick of being stuck in the basement.
A cafeteria employee at St. John School, no one is more excited about the new, $1 million addition to the building — which includes a new dining area, and serving and meal preparation stations — than Bliss.
“This is wonderful, just wonderful,” she said. “I can’t wait to be in here every day.”
It was standing room only on Sunday at St. John as teachers, employees, alumni, family, parents, students and supporters crowded the Depot Road school to see the new cafeteria and kitchen.
Sister Maureen Burke said she is “beyond excited” to see how many people came to the open house.
“It took exactly 365 days from the day we announced the purchase of this building until we opened this new addition,” she said. “This was one very big, very exciting year for St. John School.”
The $1 million addition to what was Saybrook Elementary and is now Ashtabula County’s only kindergarten through 12th grade school was just a vision when St. John School took over the building.
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.
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.
Cafeteria employee Roseann Jones piled desserts on trays for the many guests on Sunday.
“It will be so nice to be in an environment where we can provide a variety of delicious, nutritious meals in a real community setting,” she said. “This is really something to be proud of.”
Palma Benedict, 90, sent her children, and now her grandchildren to St. John School.
“This school has been a part of my life for a very long time,” she said. “This cafeteria is so beautiful and I can say that they are doing a wonderful job here.”
Linda Benedict agrees with her mother-in-law.
“None of this would be at all possible without Sister Burke,” she said. “She has so much energy and such vision to make all of this possible for the school.”
St. John student Katie Kovach, 10, said she is looking forward to eating lunch outside the school’s basement.
“Eating in the small basement wasn’t very nice,” she said. “I’m very excited about the first day we get to use the new cafeteria. I am going to buy my lunch that day!”