January 12, 2012
CHS seniors savor their new space
School district opens doors on new senior lounge
A crowd of Cortland High School seniors stood patiently through speeches by their classmates, co-advisor and executive principal Wednesday afternoon before finally entering a room they had waited for: the new Senior Cafe.
The cafe will be a place to meet in the morning and during lunch, have study hall and spend time socializing.
Fashioned from space once occupied by offices adjacent to the cafeteria, the 1,485-square-foot room has eight plush chairs, three round tables on pillars with high-legged chairs, an assortment of other tables, shelf seating along one wall and a counter along another wall with high-legged chairs, against a wall covered with ceramic tile.
About 60 seniors and a few underclassmen watched as class president Jenna Gregory and Vinnie Bellardini, one of the seniors who helped to plan the room, cut a wide purple ribbon across the door.
Gregory and Bellardini urged the seniors to enjoy the space, keep furniture in good condition “because having this is a privilege,” and get to know each other within its walls. Teachers will monitor the room.
“This room is for you,” Executive Principal Gregory Santoro said, adding that it was added to the school out of respect for the Class of 2012’s academic and service accomplishments.
The tables inside were laden with pizza, cookies, fruit and nacho chips. The colors were neon yellow and purple, like the Cortland Crazies cheering section at athletic events.
The cafe was constructed as part of the Cortland city school district’s current $41.6 million capital project, which is renovating school buildings to upgrade security, heating and ventilation, construct new offices and classrooms, and add artificial turf and new bleachers and lighting to Moiseichik Stadium.
District officials did not provide a cost for the room itself, as it is part of overall renovations to the Cortland Junior-Senior High School that include new offices, entranceway, roof, teachers’ resource room and heating system.
The cost would include the furniture, the construction of walls and the counter space, and the floor tiles and lighting.
The idea of a social and eating space for seniors attracted some criticism during last spring’s budget hearings, as some members of the public questioned the need for such a thing during tough financial times.
But Santoro said the cafe was added because Superintendent of Schools Larry Spring wanted to do things in the capital project that benefited students.
Teacher Christine Gregory, the class co-advisor and Jenna’s mother, told the crowd that the senior class has the following accomplishments: 20 percent (or 35 to 37 members) belong to National Honor Society, 37 percent taking courses through Tompkins Cortland Community College, 68 seniors taking Advanced Placement courses, a total of 1,345 college credits earned by June.
Five seniors will receive associate degrees from TC3 as they finish high school, and 20 percent will wear an honor cord for community service at commencement, meaning they did at least 150 hours.
“It will be exciting,” Bellardini said as his classmates sat or walked around him. “We’ll watch for overcrowding and bad behavior. Senioritis will really kick in now, because people will hang out here.”
Senior James Van Deuson said he will enjoy eating lunch among classmates, away from middle school students. Katie Sweeney, who plans to paint a mural on one wall with Cassandra Carleton, said the senior class has talked for weeks about the cafe.
Previously, starting in the fall of 2010, seniors could gather before school in the large group instruction room.
One wall has space that could hold a flat-screen television set, although Santoro said it is undecided whether one will be placed there.
Christine Gregory said a class gift will purchase a sign to hang outside the door on the cafeteria.
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