New seating coming to both cafes after winter break

Both cafes will be getting new seating after winter break. Principal Shaun Tomaszewski said that when he started here four years ago, he noticed that the cafeteria seating needed to be updated.

Seth Franco and Brendan Harris

The school plans to replace the current cafeteria seating with new seating arrangements tailored for each cafe sometime following winter break.

Principal Shaun Tomaszewski said he noticed that the cafeteria seating needed to be updated back when he started working at the school four years ago.

“When I started here, there were large circular tables everywhere in the South Cafeteria. The problem with these tables is that kids are close together, which ratchets up the volume in the cafeteria. I wanted to get new furniture and considered what we could put in,” Tomaszewski said.

However, the high school needed more cafeteria seats when seventh- and eighth-graders were absorbed from Harrison Middle School as work began on the new R.A. Lutz Elementary building began. This was around the same time that the pandemic started, which further delayed the plans for a new cafeteria seating setup.

To increase social distancing, the school first replaced the circular tables and North Cafeteria booths with around 600 student desks, which were more COVID compliant. This year, with the easing of some distancing restrictions, there are long tables in each cafeteria.

At the end of last school year, work began again on planning for new cafeteria seating.

“Some architects from a furniture company took a look at our cafeteria spaces and pitched a furniture design proposal that (Supt. Dr. Randal) Lutz and I think is great,” Tomaszewski said.

Tomaszewski hopes that the new design will give the cafeteria a less institutional feel.

“There are going to be high top tables like in the overlook, smaller round tables with six seats, and longer rectangular tables. It will have more of a food court or restaurant feel. I’m hoping that this creates a calmer overall vibe in the cafeteria,” Tomaszewski said.

The project will cost around $196,500 to complete. Tomaszewski thinks the new tables will make eating lunch at school a more enjoyable experience for all students.

“If a group of 30 kids wants to sit at a rectangular table, they can do that. If a smaller group wants to sit at a smaller table they can, without being forced to sit with the larger groups. I think it’ll have a good impact on the dynamic of the lunch rooms,” Tomaszewski said.

Junior Kismat Bista likes the idea of new seating.

“I think that the new lunch tables will be so much better because I can sit closer to my friends and we aren’t separated like before,” Bista said.

Sophomore Sean Apparicio, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about the seating changes.

“I like the idea of different tables. In a way, the current seats make it hard to make friends, because the tables are the same and people group up. At the same time, it might take time to adjust to new seats because people are used to the current ones,” Apparicio said.

In the future, the school would also like to convert the atriums into “commons” areas for juniors and seniors to go during their free periods. That project is likely to begin after the seventh- and eighth-graders return to the middle school, as additional space will be needed.