Jenks High School Dining Hall: Serving Up Campus Community

Situation The existing Jenks High School Central Campus Cafeteria was no longer adequate for its 1,500 students, lunchtime operations were stressful, and there wasn’t enough seating for existing and incoming students. KSQ Design initially was selected to help Jenks develop a program for renovating and expanding the facility; however, a thoughtful evaluation determined that the existing structure had reached its useful life span and it was more cost effective to build a new 35,000 SF cafeteria on the existing site, while also providing smoother operations, wayfinding and facility management throughout the process.

Temporary Accommodations

Taking down the existing cafeteria for a full school year also meant creating a makeshift dining venue. KSQ created an imaginative solution to meet the client’s needs by utilizing a nearby practice gymnasium which had a concession stand only needing minor modifications to function as a temporary kitchen. The team created separate programming for the temporary space, worked with the Department of Health to ensure quality and logistics, and had kitchen equipment and appliances inventoried and prepped for relocation.

Front and Center Location

The location of the existing cafeteria was in the middle of campus near the main entrance and bus drop off. The design team immediately saw an opportunity to take advantage of the site’s location, and opted to drop the entrance back 30-40 feet to allow for better pedestrian circulation in front, enhanced by a grand portico entry. Increasing the new building’s height also gave it a strong presence that will ultimately boost the potential for use by the community.

Upscale Student Dining

In keeping with high school design trends seen nationally, particularly in larger districts, the idea emerged that this wouldn’t be just a cafeteria. It would be a true dining hall, similar to the types of sophisticated collegiate dining venues KSQ creates for universities across the country. A variety of seating is in the grand dining room where one enters the building, with the servery located in the back of the room. An oversized wall graphic of the school’s Trojan mascot head is on an axis with the entry and emphasizes the strong identity and school pride at Jenks. The building’s shape itself was likened to puzzle pieces that fit together—the design team even took a series of manipulative puzzles to a client meeting to illustrate the idea of building components coming together in this fashion. The contemporary design language blends well with that of surrounding campus buildings, including a language of cantilevers which will serve as cover for outside dining areas.

“The new dining hall will not only serve as a fantastic facility for our students, but it will be a place for our entire community to gather,” stated Dr. Stacey Butterfield, Superintendent of Jenks Public Schools. “None of this would be possible without the hard work of our construction partners or without the vision of our administrators, child nutrition employees, and our teachers. Thanks to the support of our parents and patrons, we are able to create modern, functional spaces like this one which will serve our students for many decades.”

[caption id="attachment_6462" align="alignleft" width="900"] Jenks' Trojan mascot becomes an oversized wall graphic in the large dining area. Reinforcing the strong sense of school pride was a key priority for the design team.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6487" align="alignleft" width="900"] The ribbon cutting on August 15 celebrated a new dining hall with child nutrition staff front and center.[/caption]

Teamwork Made the Dream Work.

Right from the kick-off meeting, the project team utilized an integrated project delivery process which brought the contractor into the process from the beginning. The team also toured similar facilities in Texas to gain inspiration and included child nutrition and students in the planning effort. The result is a kitchen that functions as beautifully as the building’s aesthetics, and a team that worked together with only one RFI (request for information), an unheard-of achievement on most construction projects.

“This has been an incredibly successful project from all facets,” said KSQ Design Managing Partner David W. Short, AIA. “The collaboration and teamwork between the client and design team resulted in only one RFI (Request for Information), a project that came in under budget and with great client satisfaction. The student reactions say it all—this is a dining hall similar to what we often design for universities, so it’s a big step up from what is typical for a high school.”