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Opinion: New Rowayton school cafeteria promotes healthy living

The Norwalk Board of Education is proud to recognize the parents and staff who championed the completion of a new lunchroom dining environment at Rowayton Elementary School. With the successful renovation of the Rowayton Elementary School cafeteria, students can now enjoy a meal in a bright updated environment, which promotes healthy living and a positive social experience.

When entering the transformed space, students are met with a sky-blue ceiling, large acoustical white clouds, and energy efficient lighting. Appropriate to our community on Long Island Sound, the cafeteria has a nautical theme complete with blue-green walls, and paintings of hundreds of multi-colored fish swimming toward large portholes. Each porthole displays a large photograph of a familiar scene from the Rowayton community.

This high traffic space is used for six lunch shifts, and before and after school programs. The old wooden gym floor has been completely covered by thick wood-look vinyl flooring. This material requires no maintenance beyond daily washing, and is a great labor-saving feature.

Students sit at round tables, with attractive yellow chairs enabling inclusive social interaction. Above the doors to the serving area is a long yellow and white-striped decorative awning, which nicely matches the yellow chairs. New garbage and recycling barrels, in the school colors of yellow and blue, also add to the functionality and cohesiveness of the space.

School spirit is an important part of the Rowayton culture. Now, above the stage, a nautical flag spells R-O-W-A-Y-T-O-N. Along the front of the stage apron and along the wall opposite the server are rows of nautical cleats, which are used as coat hooks for students.

An updated menu offers students nutritionally balanced meals including various flavors of smoothies. Students also have a salad bar option for lunch.

This is also a green project, as a new dishwasher has enabled the use of reusable serving trays and metal utensils in place of disposable Styrofoam trays and plastic “sporks.”

The exceptional transformation of this space will further support learning and provide an inclusive environment where students can thrive both socially and academically. As part of the Board’s commitment under the Strategic Operating Plan to improve school lunch quality and the dining environment, the Rowayton Cafeteria will be used as a model for renovations at other schools.

The Board of Education proudly recognizes Rowayton parents Aimee Ableman, Heather Schneider, Silvia Doyle and Gina Legnani, who spent countless hours organizing this project and shepherding it through to completion. The Board also recognizes Rowayton teacher Melissa Petropolous, who was the teacher representative on this project, as well as Interim Principal Joe Rodriguez, Curriculum and Instruction Site Director Rob Pennington, Whitsons Culinary Group, and the NPS Facilities Department for their support of the project. We thank them all for their vision, dedication and commitment to excellence.

3 comments

Diane Lauricella January 21, 2018 at 8:49 am

Congratulations to all who made this transformation possible!

In addition to the healthier food choices and ambiance, I am grateful that the recycling and waste reduction measures suggested a while ago publicly have taken hold!

Re-introducing tray and metal utensil washing machine should be implemented in All schools sooner rather than later in order to reduce the $85/ton trash charge to the District and Taxpayers.
Congratulations!

Sarah Waters January 21, 2018 at 11:49 am

This was such an important project! Some children were stressed out during lunch, which our SGC agreed should be a time for restoration and rejuvenation, so students could return back to the classroom ready to be engaged and eager to learn. My kids were very vocal to me over the years about their frustrations, so it was high on my list of things I was working to address when I joined the SGC. The children needed the time to socialize, have a bit of freedom, and eat! Sound reduction/dampening was a critical component. A friendly environment for ALL students was another piece not just for those who “behaved”.

Shout out to Mrs Msaad as well, who encouraged us SGC parents to do initial “research” and visit the cafeteria, and pointed out that sound reduction panels had helped years ago, but had been removed at some point. Shout out to Ms Madaffari who pointed out that shades (that were nearly impossible to adjust) needed to be updated so daylight could come in, a simple yet mood alternating intervention. Kudos to our SGC parents who put in the hours with the contractors ETC.

To the future—it would be great if all Norwalk districts schools could have a restorative & rejuvenating lunch experience! Hopefully many already do! Another important piece is an active recess/time for body movement/stretching/breaks, even during the winter. Let’s champion the importance of this as we move to longer & possibly more days in school.

Diane, FYI it seems there may be some issues with implementation of washing machine. Something about not enough staff to load/unload the machine. Not sure where it stands, but it seems that is a work in progress.

Rick January 21, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Its been a long time coming congrats to the students and the teachers,Mrs Msaad and Ms Madaffari

trust they have tested the Radon levels , when our kids went there the levels were dangerous , keeping the windows open all winter was for a reason.

Breaking into the foundation or floors was a problem at the time , chasing cracks and filling them to prevent radon gas from escaping was poorly addressed as well

When it was tested and the levels were high a system was put in but was at the time poorly maintained.

One can check the readings now by asking , it was suppose to be tested yearly and the system was to be maintained , one of the fan motors broke and wasn’t fixed for years we know our kids went there

Radon doesn’t go away so with all the new work was done one can assume that was also addressed. Its been over ten years time enough to ignore the obvious.

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