Ground Break 3

School breaks ground on new cafeteria

Jeremy Styron-News-Herald

After years of discussion, the Loudon County Board of Education and county officials conclusively broke ground Thursday evening on a new school cafeteria at Philadelphia Elementary School that is set to be completed by the beginning of next school year.

"We've been talking about this for seven years, so this has been a long time in the making," Director of Schools Jason Vance said.

The project, the construction of which is set to begin in late March or early April, will cost an estimated $1.3 million and will be funded through a 20 percent property tax that the Loudon County Commission approved this past summer.
"That will be an all-inclusive way to pay for it," Vance said.

Knoxville-based Merit Construction will work on the project, along with Red Chair Architects, also of Knoxville.

Philadelphia Elementary, which has about 650 students, currently has to spread lunch out between morning and the afternoon to accommodate all the children.

A larger cafeteria will narrow that time gap, Vance said.

"We've got some kids eat as early as 10 something in the morning," Vance said. "Some kids, 1 something in the afternoon, so it's a really good opportunity to reduce that window."

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by current teachers, students, county officials and school board members.

Principal Maria Warren remembered the Bingo for Books event that was held at the school in late February in which the cafeteria was packed with people. She said she looked forward to the school being able to hold other gatherings with less of a crowding problem in the new cafeteria.

"We're excited that we're going to be able to host more community events," Warren said at the groundbreaking.

Assistant Principal Kevin Gentry, who recalled his years as a student at the school, said he hoped current students could create the same types of positive memories in the new cafeteria that he did in the old one.

"I look forward to seeing these little ones go through Philadelphia and have similar experiences and even better," Gentry said.

Cafeteria manager Margie Cantrell anticipated that the new cafeteria would benefit the school and its students momentously because of the additional space and the new cooking equipment that would come with the new facility.

"It's small," Cantrell said about the current cafeteria. "Our kitchen is small; our dining area is small. We feed around 500 kids every day, and we have to start with our kindergarten and pre-K at 10:45 (a.m.), and the older kids don't get to come until about 15 'til 1(p.m.)."

Like Vance, she hoped the larger facility would reduce the amount of time needed for lunch.
"Our kids are very excited about it," Cantrell said. "It's been all the talk this week."