ORIGINALLY WRITTEN NANCY MILLER
Crowded facilities and improper working conditions have caused the food service staff at Hillsboro Elementary School to ask the USD 410 Board of Education for changes.
A report detailing the basic problems and possible solutions was presented at the school board’s April meeting. Judy Hiebert and Judy Penner, head cook and staff member, prepared this report after observing several issues over the past year.
“We both had talked about these items and dreamed of what could be done,” said Penner.
Gordon Mohn, superintendent of USD 410, agreed that some work could be done. After stating the fact that the facility has not changed since its birth in 1961, Mohn said, “What was adequate in 1961 isn’t necessarily adequate now.”
The highest priority, according to Hiebert and Penner, was the need for another water source for food preparation.
Currently, only three sources of water are available in the kitchen, a sprayer for dishes, a hand-washing sink, and a three-tub sink that is meant to be used for dishwashing. Due to this lack of adequate water sources, the staff is forced to prepare some food in the sink intended for dishwashing, not the best possible situation, according to Hiebert.
The state health inspector pointed out this need last year, demonstrating that the HES cafeteria is not up to current state requirements.The kitchen’s newest vent ducts need to be insulated as well. This item has already been scheduled for repair this summer.
“The lack of proper insulation allows condensation to gather on the ductwork which is situated over the clean-up and food-prep areas,” stated the report.
Replacing refrigeration and freezer units is also needed. This renovation would make the cafeteria’s purchasing power more effective by allowing efficient storage of food. It would also allow staff to serve the highest quality food at the highest safety standards, according to the report, by allowing adequate storage of purchases.
The fourth concern of Penner and Hiebert is the need for a proper cafeteria for the elementary school students. Currently, the gymnasium is divided in half by a curtain that drops from the ceiling to the half court line.
While one half of the gym is used as a cafeteria, the other half is used for Physical Education classes. The class and the students eating lunch often find themselves competing in noise level. As the volume on one side increases, the volume on the other side rises as well.
“They can get awfully excited,” said Penner.
“We have students getting in trouble for being loud and disruptive from trying to compete with the noise level,” the report stated.
This noise competition causes problems within the lunchroom that one lunchroom monitor cannot control, according to Penner and Hiebert.
“It affects behavior, it affects how they eat,” said Hiebert.
The kitchen staff called for a new facility to solve these various problems. This new facility could, according to the report, provide a quieter dining environment, bring all areas to optimum standards, create a proper area for custodial and office work, and create an area for proper chemical storage.
“‘If we could have our dream, it would be a whole new facility,” said Hiebert. “On many levels, I think it would help.”
This new facility could even become a resource for the community and be open for community use, according to Penner and Hiebert.
The school board agreed to consider the report, as well as to visit the school during the lunch hour before the May board meeting on May 14 to observe the extent of the problems. As of Wednesday, May 2, none of the members had yet visited.
According to Mohn, it is too early to tell what will happen with this situation.
“‘We are not blaming any one thing for this problem,” stated the report. “It’s the nature of the beast.”‘