WILLMAR -- A construction contract was awarded Tuesday for the kitchen at the Willmar Middle School to receive a makeover.
The $216,500 project will be finished by the time school starts in fall.
Members of the Willmar School Board held a special meeting Tuesday to approve the contract with Carlson Construction of Willmar, which was the lowest of three bidders for the project.
Over the next couple of months, the kitchen will be reconfigured to create more space for the staff and a more efficient serving line for students.
In the 40-plus years since the middle school was built, the kitchen has remained virtually untouched, said Pam Harrington, business manager for the Willmar School District. "It's pretty much the original kitchen and the original serving line," she said.
But as the school lunch program adds more variety and choices to the menu, the needs have changed, Harrington said. "It's very different from the way food was served in the '60s."
School officials said the kitchen improvements will help ease the process of food preparation and serving.
"We're trying to make it more efficient and effective," Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said.
"This is something the students will be able to see," Harrington said. "Teachers, parents and the public will see."
Money for the kitchen project will come from the school district's food service budget, which has $290,000 set aside for the middle school kitchen.
Because bids came in under budget, some money will be left over to tackle additional improvements next June, before the current fiscal year ends. District officials are considering more changes to the serving line as well as to the dish room. Some redesign of the loading dock, where food and kitchen supplies are unloaded, is also a possibility.
Altogether, it will likely be a three-year project to update the kitchen at the middle school, Harrington said. Work is being done in phases both for financial reasons and because the school can't shut down the kitchen for construction during the school year.
"We can't afford to do it all at once nor do we have time to do it all at once," Harrington said.