Home Ec Lab renovation going ahead this summer

McNaughton High on track for renovation after 10 years of planning

May 20, 2024, 7:53 am
by Ashley Bochek

McNaughton High School plans to renovate the Home Economics lab this summer creating a more spacious classroom for PAA students. The school is going to the community to raise funds to upgrade the new appliances. From left in the Home Ec lab are Principal Sherrie Meredith, Home Economics teacher Laura Teale, and Vice-Principal Scott Sully. At the bottom of the page is the latest plan for the renovation.

McNaughton High school has plans to renovate the Home Economics lab this summer, and will be looking to the community for financial support.

The school has been planning an upgrade for the Home Ec lab since 2013 and proposed the plans to the Southeast Cornerstone School Division in 2019.
Principal Sherrie Meredith, Vice-Principal Scott Sully, and Home Economics teacher, Laura Teale spoke to the World-Spectator about the renovation and plans for community fundraising.

Teale says she and former Principal, Jeff St. Onge first started thinking about a larger renovation in 2013.

“Mr. St. Onge and I started talking about a renovation way back in 2013,” Teale says. “We were just throwing around some ideas and getting the ball rolling. We had a few drawings drawn up over the years. Initially, our dream was to move the Home Ec lab to the library area, and so we put together a full reno proposal in the 2019-2020 school year. We proposed that to the division, and it was very well received, but then COVID happened and all of that snowballed and put a hold on things. We did revisit that in the last two years.”

Sherrie says the price of construction has increased drastically since 2019.

“In that 2019-2020 school year it was well received and looked like it was going to grow legs because things cost differently in that time frame. Then, when we got back around to it last school year, we realized when they got the quote in for the fire suppression system for example, had doubled. It ended up being $1.2 million versus $600,000. The fire suppression system would be necessary because, with the extent of that renovation, it was considered a new build, but when we renovate here in the existing home ec lab, there are no structural changes, so it’s considered just a renovation sow we don’t need that. At that point we met with our community consultation and looked toward applying for a minor capital grant, which was well supported by many community members, the Community Builders Alliance, the Town, the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Committee, Nutrien, lots of people wrote letters of support.

Sully adds, “Through us, our school division, and local stakeholders, we put together what we thought was a pretty strong proposal to do this swap of spaces in the school, but unfortunately we didn’t receive that funding. So, what we are going with now is a renovation in place, in the home ec room.”

The Southeast Cornerstone School Division has given funding to McNaughton High to renovate the space.

Meredith says, “Our school division did generously provide PMR (Preventative Maintenance and Renewal) funding in order to do this renovation. We unfortunately cannot do the larger renovation at this point, but we decided as a team that we wanted to see this part happen because this renovation is a dire need. It is over 50 years old, I think this kitchen was built in 1964, and aside from some coats of paint, the appliances don’t actually fit in the spaces allocated.”

Sully says the major renovation may still happen just later on in the future, “The other major renovation can still be something we apply for in the future. I think if we did get it, it would still include a lot of other portions of the building, but the home ec room would already be updated.”
Meredith adds, “Once this room would be updated, it would be updated.”

Pushing to update Home Ec Lab

They are focusing on updating the current home ec lab to make sure it happens.

“We want to see it happen. Rather than waiting for the provincial funding lottery, we want to take what we can and go from there and do a nice renovation.” Sully said.

Meredith thinks the renovation would improve the program as well as student’s Practical and Applied Arts skills.

She explains, “From 2013 until now that is a lot of groups of kids that could and should have benefitted but didn’t. In the future we want them to have the benefit of the renovated Home Ec space, so we think it is a good decision to use the opportunity that we have. We have a very gifted PAA teacher in Teale and every year we don’t update, we are losing a year of her skills and abilities that she gives to our students. It is a wonderful program. The kids get food safe certification, employability skills, they work out in the community in different work placements.

“We have a nice partnership with the food bank happening, we’ve had a previous nutrition grant that has helped build up our breakfast program. The students serve daily lunches as well.”

Students deserve upgraded space

Teale says the students deserve a fresh space in the home ec lab.

“I think first and foremost, our kids deserve the upgrade,” Teale says. “I can offer a lot more to them if I have the tools, equipment, and the classroom that we need to support that programming. One of the things we do is provide lunches every day from our concession for the commercial cooking class. This semester we have 27 students in commercial cooking. So, with only four kitchens that is a very crowded classroom.

“We have a partnership with a couple of different restaurants in town, Witch’s Brew and CrateHouse right now, are taking students every week, just for the hour, so that does help balance out the numbers a little bit, but it certainly is very crowded. We juggle and do the best we can, but certainly with more space students could get a lot more of a hands-on experience to grow and learn.”

Plans for Renovation

The school plans on adding a fifth kitchen area to create additional space for groups of students cooking.

Teale says, “We are hoping to add a kitchen and space some things out. We are hoping to have three kitchens on one side of the room and two on the other side.

Meredith says some changes are still being made in the planning stage, “There are some changes still being made to the plan.”

Sully adds, “The plan is having kitchens on both sides and one which will be fully accessible—barrier free, wheelchair accessible.

“Then we have two demo stations, islands. We’re just opening the spaces up,” Meredith says. “There would be movable stations in the classroom part so it can be cosmetology, sewing, whichever, it’s flexible. We would like to take out the wall separating the classroom area from the kitchens and the back wall of the classroom to extend it further.”

Teale says they plan to expand the overall Home Ec space. “There are two offices behind the back wall of the classroom area that we can use to make this space bigger.”

“It is not as much square footage as we would like, but it is actually fairly close to what we would have had in the library, just a different configuration,” Meredith states. “The different configuration of the library was more of an ‘L’ shape and it attached to the existing servery, which we would have been able to add space to that way.”

Teale adds, “It would have just been more convenient that way to have us close to the concession, but this is certainly a great opportunity for us.”
Meredith explains, “The renovation itself is about the space, it is going to give us new walls, new cabinets, new counters, and new flooring, but what it doesn’t give us is appliances because we already have existing appliances. We have four stoves and a washer and dryer, those things, but when you renovate anything you want to raise the bar overall.”

Hopes to begin soon

Workers will begin renovating as soon they can, after fundraising and once the school division approves the plan.

“There will be a combination of workers,” Meredith says. “Tenders would go out for certain work and a lot of the work would be done by Facilities. We did offer some of our IA classes to help with demolition.”

Sully says, “They employ some of their own tradespeople. We have some of our own tradespeople on site.”

They would like to have the home ec upgraded and functional by the fall.
“If we can get a few things organized they would like to get started as soon as possible with a real hopeful opening date for the fall,” Meredith says.

In the beginning

The school has planned for a renovation for the home ec lab for the last 10 years and started with student input.

“We have thrown around quite a few ideas over the years and it has been almost 10 years of planning,” Teale states. “We have had a lot of time to think about what we would really like. The plans have changed a lot. Students initially had a lot of input in those beginning drawings. They had lots of wonderful ideas and we did have a few versions of these plans. We just found that the island instead of the traditional U-shaped kitchens just made better use of space for us.”

Teale continues, “Sherrie and I drew a rough sketch of the plan. Then we sent it off to facilities and we have been back and forth with them.”
Meredith says the previous plan in 2019 was driven by students and was on the right path for approval.

“Our 2019-2020 presentation to the board that was very heavily student driven there was student videos, testimonials, there was a group of Home Economics students who did the pitch after the Christmas dinner. We actually served the Christmas dinner to board members, facilities people, the director of Education at the time, all here at that point. Things were looking good there for a little bit.

“It is hard to let go of the big dream plan, but this is more than a consolation prize. This is going to be wonderful for our students and staff. It is not just a commercial kitchen, we do have commercial cooking, but we also have home economics classes from grade 7-12, so in cosmetology, interior design modules.

Sully adds, “A lot of kids run through this room in a day.”

Variety of learning experiences in Home Ec

The home ec class holds various learning opportunities students enjoy.
Teale says, “That was a big challenge in the drawing—trying to make it very flexible to accommodate those other classes as well. The government is very committed to having there be more PAA credits required for graduation now, so going forward, we want to make sure this space is more flexible to offer interior design, hair and aesthetics, and different opportunities for our students.

Sully adds, “And there might be new courses added, there might be new courses that pop up. So having a space that is flexible for that is advantageous for us.”

“I always promote these classes because we all need to eat.” Meredith says. “So, this is a good place to learn how to prepare food safely and nutritiously.”

Sully says the students learn many different skills in the home ec lab. “There are just so many things they do and accomplish in here. It is fun to see, and impressive.”

Fundraiser planned

McNaughton High school is planning a fundraiser to upgrade the new appliances for the home ec lab.

Meredith says it would be ideal to have renovation and new appliances updated all at once for students to start fresh this coming fall. “It would be nice to have things unified, all at one time. I think a big push for us on our end of things would be to update our appliances and equipment, maybe even some of the things in the cupboards. Some of these things in here are 25 years old.
“We are getting $150,000 for PMR funding from the division. We think $50,000 in community funding would do a lot for us in terms of appliances and those upgrades.

“If we had a little additional, we might be able to upgrade some things, for example, countertops—maybe we can go to stainless steel. Our initial goal would be $50,000 and then go from there. The fundraiser we are doing is school based, we have decided to do it because we would like to upgrade the appliances. It is a personal goal. On my school based budget I can replace an oven and I do that for other things too, but to do it all at once would be amazing for the students.”

The school is thinking of doing a letter campaign to start fundraising along with little fundraisers as well.

“Our SCC has met and we were considering a letter campaign to start and see what might be out there.” Meredith explains. “We do have a tight turnaround if this is going to get off the ground for the fall.”

Sully says, “We have a few small things like the Booster Juice fundraiser and a couple things like that. We are hoping to get the word out through this story, then talk to some people, write some letters. Then, meet with the right stakeholders who might be interested.” The plan will be presented at the May 28 Chamber meeting.

Meredith adds, “The SCC is holding its TacoTime fundraiser at the end of May for the students and Booster Juice in June. Those proceeds would go toward updating appliances. We did the Booster Juice last year and we were able to get two microwaves .

“We thought if we’re able to get some local donations, we might host an appreciation supper, dessert night or something later once the reno is completed.

“If a company wanted to donate a certain amount or sponsor certain appliances, I think that would be a possibility.”

Community Support

They are hopeful the community’s support will help them achieve their goal.
“I just read Kevin’s column this week and as he pointed out, we do have a very generous community,” Meredith says. “The number of people who help out is phenomenal. I know there is so many things you can donate to right now, but this is just another cause that can use it.

“The thing is this isn’t just an investment for this year, this is an investment for the future of McNaughton. The number of kids that we feed, we offer a breakfast program to everyone. That can’t happen if you don’t have the right facility. Laura, our students, and staff have done an amazing job with what we have and will continue to do so, but we are definitely moving in the direction of needing that upgrade.”

Teale says local groups have helped support their breakfast program over the years, “We have been very lucky over the years that people have come to us. The food bank offered their donation, they give us about $400 every month to support our breakfast program and that has been incredibly generous. They also donated the aero garden to us so we can grow some herbs and tomatoes. We had a few people from Nutrien that stopped by one day with a cheque to go toward our breakfast program because they felt it was a good cause. There has been other things over the years too, the Kinettes donated money toward a new surger.”

Meredith adds, “The Pinoy Basketball give money for bread, for toast, things like that. We are very lucky in that regard. Yearly, I know that our yearbook will go out to the community for sponsorship.

“We hosted a provincial volleyball event one year and we went around for support in the community.” Sully says.

Meredith says they rely on the community for many different school programs, “Same for a drama festival. We rely on our community for lots of things, but I like to think we have a lovely partnership with people.

“We use our program to help with the Shriner’s and the Shriner’s give back, we help different organizations. I think we have a nice thing going that way. We are doing some mural work for Main Street right now. I wouldn’t say often we go to the community for help but this is a big thing. We haven’t done a renovation in 50 years. This would be probably one of the bigger things we have come for.”

Changes to the home ec lab over the years

The home ec lab has had minor changes over the years, but nothing as extensive as the upgrade planned.

Teale says, “Before me I know Mrs. Frondall painted the cabinets, and I have painted them twice. The division painted the inside of them once since I have been here, and I have been here for 12 years.”

“Mr. St. Onge opened the classroom a bit bigger, it was more two separate spaces.” Meredith says. “Otherwise the technology and new things you put in it change, but there haven’t been any big changes.”

Teale adds, “There used to be a door separating the two spaces when I was a student here.”

About the Home Economics class

Teale has been the Home Economics teacher at McNaughton for the last 12 years and offers many different learning opportunities for middle years and high school students.

“I teach grade 7-12 home economics, that is a PAA course,” Teale says. “Half of the year the students come to me and half they go to the shop. During that time they get a taste of the cooking, sewing, and some interior design. Then, the high school classes, grade 10-12, are elective classes.

“In commercial cooking we prepare lunch every day for the school. The students plan the menus and I check them over and approve them. They have to include all the food groups, and they have some stipulations they need to follow. Then, breakfast as well.

“They get their food safe certification at the beginning of the semester. They learn a lot of employability skills going forward into there life and careers that can follow them into lots of different jobs.

“We also have a practical and applied arts program so sometimes we offer hair and aesthetics depending on the students and who is in the class. We often build the course at the beginning of the semester based on who I have and what they are interested in. We do interior design, quilting, sewing, and we also do some different culinary arts in that course as well, like cake decorating, and international foods. I have a big list of different options for students, then they vote, and we plan them together.

Teale says the students really enjoy her class and the different learning opportunities within it, “The students really enjoy it. It makes my year, seeing some of the comments we get from the students. I know it is lots of students favourite class. Not every student thrives in a desk and I think sometimes I feel I am tricking them into learning, because they’re having fun.”

Sully adds, “It is an elective, but it’s a classroom that is always full.”

Where the reno plans are at

The school is finalizing renovation plans right now and hope to begin the work shortly, in June.

Meredith says, “We met with facilities and public health last week, and we are just waiting on a few more things before we can get the ball rolling. We are just waiting back on a few answers before we can start.

“The renovation would be up to facilities. If we have to move early we would maybe relocate a little bit in June if necessary and run the last little bit out of the library or drama room. Then, hopefully they get a lot done over the summer, then the start up in the fall. With the fundraiser donations, we are hoping to put those appliances in the space.”

Sully says the fundraiser won’t slow down the renovation, “The fundraising steps wouldn’t impede progress being made here because the school division and PMR money is what covers the renovation. The fundraiser donations would be filling the room.

“We are hoping things could be going soon, like before the end of the school year we should see things happening,” Sully says.

Fundraising Goal

The school hopes to raise $50,000 to upgrade appliances in the home ec lab.
Meredith says, “Our goal is $50,000. We think that would cover appliances, but if we were to end up raising more, there are mixers, new sets of pots and pans, new cutlery, upgraded countertops, so it would all go to very good use.”

Teale says the renovation will improve the functionality of the room and allow classes to run more smoothly. “I certainly think it would be a lot more streamlined. I have to say I spend a lot of time flipping breakers and fixing things. I think my students deserve my full attention and they deserve to be in here to learn, not to be having a teacher in the hallway trying to fix electrical. I think it will definitely make the program run smoother—that is the biggest thing.”

Meredith adds, “I feel it might just rejuvenate the programs. Just the excitement of something new.”

Sully says a new space makes things easier, “It is the teachers and students that make the most of a program and can transform a space into learning and growing like Laura does now, but a new space never hurts either. It builds excitement, it makes things easier and makes the process go smoother. It is the people, but it doesn’t hurt when the building is improved as well.”

Teale adds, “Certainly it will be safer as well from a food safety perspective. The biggest part for us is we want to see our students thriving and we want them to be excited to come to school.”

“The functionality of the space can be improved,” Meredith says.

How you can help

Anyone who wants to help with the project can send an E-transfer to:
Please include “Home Ec Fundraiser” in the memo of the E-transfer.
If a donation receipt is needed, please provide your name and address along with your E-transfer.