BELDING — It’s been a year of adjustments at Belding High School with the construction of a new gymnasium, auditorium, band room and other various additions to the school.
But as of last week, the final touches of interior construction were completed with the opening of the new spacious high school cafeteria and commons area.
Built in the space previously occupied by the school’s original auditorium and band room, the new cafeteria left students such as junior Allison Harrison in awe with few words to describe the new facilities.
“Whoa,” said the 16-year-old after first walking into the new two-story cafeteria. “That’s all I could say, it’s amazing here. We’ve never had anything like this.”
The new facility opens directly into two adjacent hallways, allowing for easy traffic flow of students as they enter the cafeteria, which includes a stairwell into a third hallway on the second level of the building.
Prior to opening last week, students had been eating lunch in the old high school weight room and were limited to using one central hallway while construction occupied much of the school.
Junior Diania Nunez, 17, said just the space alone has provided students with a new sense of pride while walking throughout the school.
“We were working with one hallway to walk through for most of the year, it was so cramped,” she said. “This has just opened things up, it’s basically a brand new school, almost like a college campus.”
Principal Brett Zuver said his students have handled the nearly year-long atmosphere of construction and confined spaces patiently and are now finally letting out a sigh of relief with interior construction having officially wrapped up.
“The students love it,” he said. “The fact that they can sit here and eat and not have to squeeze into our old weight room anymore, it’s a lot off of their minds.”
Zuver said in just the first week he has witnessed students taking advantage of the new area during free periods, studying in the natural light provided by large two-story windows that overlook the front of the school.
“In our old commons, it was pretty dark and pretty confined with a lower ceiling where it just felt a little crowded,” he said. “I have students telling me now they feel like they are in college. They want to spend time in here to study.”
Zuver said the school’s two lunch periods have not been adjusted, but added that students are no longer restricted when trying to find a place to sit to enjoy their lunch.
“This probably seats three times the size of students,” he said. “We still have the same amount of students per each of the lunch periods, this just gives our students much more space to enjoy.”
The cafeteria also features several high definition televisions which feature school announcements and rotate between CNN and ESPN channels. Also included is a digital projector, which has already been used for a banquet held in the cafeteria.
Adjacent to the new cafeteria are the school offices, which Zuver said are state-of-the-art and have been a welcomed change from operating out of the school’s media center for most of the year.
“It’s been great, everybody’s trying to get used to their new work space,” he said. “They are state of the art and everybody loves them. Other than a few odds and ends, we’re very close to being completely done, which is incredible.”
The cafeteria, commons area and school offices were the final in-school construction project throughout the district that resulted from the $38.8 million bond levy that voters approved in 2010.