Last summer, when Eastern Elementary officials realized they would be losing their media center and cafeteria due to an ongoing construction project, they began brainstorming on how to provide their students with library time and how to serve them quality meals.

The answer to their problems involved borrowing an old bookmobile from the Mary Wood Weldon Memorial Library and transforming a science lab into a kitchen.

Instead of students leaving classrooms to go to the bookmobile, teachers pull materials from the bookmobile's shelves and take them to the classrooms.

“It has worked out really well,” Jeff Maysey, principal, said. “It’s been very beneficial to our kids.”

Initially, Maysey had hoped students could go to the bookmobile.

“But with the floors the way they are and having to track mud in and out, we thought it would be better if we had one adult taking care of getting materials,” he said.

As for the cafeteria problem, Maysey said there has been a lot of misconception about the school’s cafeteria.

“A lot of people thought we would be getting food trucked to us from the high school or the middle school or from some other school, or that we would be getting food from some other outside agency,” he said. "But Sarah Vincent and Wilma Bragg had a lot of foresight when they looked at what was going to be available to us. Instead of having an art room and a science room, which we will have once the construction is complete, they said why not take these two areas and combine them into a kitchen so we can feed the kids hot meals.”

So, they did.

Students go to the kitchen to get their food trays, but return to their classrooms to eat.

“They eat their lunch and they watch a little TV while they’re eating. I think if you talk to any of the kids, they will tell you they have liked lunch more this year because they do get to sit and talk with their buddies and watch TV and eat,” Maysey said.

Wilma Bragg, cafeteria manager, wasn’t so sure it would work at first, but it has.

“It’s great,” she said. “It’s working out better than I thought it would.”

In fact, the number of students eating lunch at school has increased since they have been allowed to eat in their classrooms, she said.

“I’m surprised,” Bragg said.

There are a couple of drawbacks to the plan.

One is the noise custodians make dragging trash cans to the classrooms to collect garbage after the lunch. The other is the lack of french fries.

Due to the small space the cafeteria staff is using, they can’t use a deep fryer and that means no french fries.

“On the days we’re supposed to have french fries we substitute and give them chips,” Bragg said. “The kids are adjusting to not having french fries.”

The construction project at Eastern is expected to be complete by May, Maysey said.

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