Kitchten Clamor

Though there are only 15 students at a time in the kitchen at Central Coast High, it’s a tight squeeze. It’s been 70 years since it was updated.

The smell inside the Central Coast High School multipurpose room matches its appearance. It smells like an untouched basement, dusty with hints of old paint. It looks like a faded photograph: beige walls with graying accents, scratched linoleum and overlapping water stains peeking through the ceiling tile. “If I’m not excited about this space, I can’t expect kids to be excited either,” CCHS Principal Alan Crawford says.

This is the room that all 95 CCHS students eat and assemble in. Crawford’s real concern is the kitchen, which also serves as a classroom.

CCHS is an alternative school that focuses on giving students who have not done well in traditional school settings – as measured by grades – a chance to graduate with vocational skills. The kitchen is a central piece of the school’s culinary academy. It’s where approximately 30 students learn the basics of cooking and running a restaurant, despite the kitchen’s current state.

“We’ve been making do with what we have,” Crawford says, “but our students deserve better.”

Improving the space means knocking down walls and raising the roof, installing stainless steel appliances, adding counter space and a demo table with an overhead camera so students can accurately follow along. Taking stock of those needs, the renovations are on a list of projects to be funded by Monterey Peninsula Unified School District’s $110 million Measure P bond, approved by voters in 2010.

The estimated costs of renovations at CCHS – which, beyond the kitchen include replacing a corroding boiler from the ’50s, repaving a parking lot, and adding in ADA-compliant infrastructure – are about $2.7 million.

Eight years after Measure P, MPUSD is now getting to the CCHS improvements. In May, two bids for the kitchen modernization came in: Avila Construction at $3.3 million and Morgan Hill-based DRP Builders at $3 million. MPUSD is required to accept the lowest bid, but Avila Construction contested DRP’s bid. Rather than go through an appeal process, the MPUSD board unanimously voted on June 12 to reject both bids – which means going back to another round of bidding. MPUSD Superintendent PK Diffenbaugh thinks that will help get the project moving faster, rather than a slow appeal process. “We want to get this project going,” he says.

The new bidding deadline is July 10. Crawford expects the project to be completed in April 2019. Until then, CCHS culinary students will use the kitchen at Seaside Community Center, next to Soper Field.

Marielle Argueza is a staff writer and calendar editor for the Weekly. She covers education, immigration and culture. Additionally, she covers the areas of Marina and South County. She occasionally writes about food and runs the internship program.

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