Tiger Mountain students wait for kitchen overhaul

November 16, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Juniors Danielle Guthrie (left) and Kaylene Benak use a portable stove to melt chocolate chips in their culinary arts class at Tiger Mountain Community High School. By Laura Geggel

It all started when the water heater broke.

The 19-year old water heater, concealed in a kitchen cabinet at Tiger Mountain Community High School, had leaked water before its demise on Oct. 27, 2009. When Issaquah School District maintenance came to inspect it, workers found the leaking water had led to black mold contamination under the kitchen floor and in the walls.

Insurance money paid for most repairs, including the mold remediation and removing the damaged floor and walls by Dec. 14, 2009, Steve Crawford, Issaquah School District director of capital projects, said.

The kitchen had a new water heater by Feb. 10, 2010, and initially, Crawford planned to simply replace it with an identical new one. But, Susan Canaga, then director of career and counseling services, saw a silver lining with the kitchen remodel.

“We thought, ‘Well, wait a minute, because we’ve been trying to get a culinary arts program in here for four years,’” Tiger Mountain Principal Ed Marcoe said.

Marcoe had planned to put the culinary program in two unused classrooms, but he nixed that idea when the Academy for Community Transition — serving special-needs students ages 18 to 21 — moved from Issaquah High School to Tiger Mountain two years ago.

With the kitchen needing repairs anyway, district administrators agreed to go ahead with the culinary arts remodel.

Culinary arts classes fit the needs of Tiger Mountain students because they are hands-on, experiential classes that allow them to apply their knowledge, as opposed to lecture classes, Marcoe said.

Students have seen a few changes with the pending remodel: The student store, which sells snacks and drinks, has moved to another building, and students had to use outdoor, portable bathrooms for four months until the permanent bathrooms attached to the kitchen were fixed in February 2009.

Designing the kitchen

In order to have a functional culinary arts program, Tiger Mountain needed a curriculum and a plan. Marcoe and Canaga began looking at the culinary programs at Liberty High School.

Those planning the remodel became so enthused, that it “came to a point where it was going to be a much nicer facility than Liberty had for its culinary arts program,” Crawford said.

Liberty administrators — preparing for a remodel themselves — began asking for a similar facility, but the district decided to scale back both to keep down costs.

“The Tiger kitchen, in the first generation, was a reflection of what they wanted, and that was a pretty expensive project,” Crawford said. “So, we went back and we looked at more of a home-ec style, a residential-type group of kitchen with four cooking stations.”

The scaled down Tiger Mountain plan will provide a suitable classroom area for culinary arts, Crawford said.

The plan includes two hand-washing sinks and two larger sinks, a commercial dishwasher, two refrigerators, a freezer, a convection oven, a four-burner cook top, a warming oven and counter space — all costing about $40,000.

“It would be a kitchen that would be well-equipped to provide for a small restaurant,” Crawford said. “They would be able to prepare almost anything they want.”

The remodel date for Tiger Mountain’s kitchen has been pushed back several times, due to design delays, but it’s slated to begin in November.

“We’ll be in a position where we can get started fairly shortly,” Crawford said.

Culinary class starts without a full kitchen

Even without a complete kitchen, culinary arts teacher Eric Sutherland has 47 students using portable stoves and working on portable, plastic lunch tables.

A large dishwashing sink is not hooked up to a water source, so students use a small hand-washing sink or sinks in other classrooms to wash pots and utensils, Sutherland said.

“Our biggest Achilles heel is no stove and no sink,” he said.

Even so, a Nov. 15 health inspection by Public Health — Seattle & King County found no violations, Marcoe said.

In their temporary kitchen, Sutherland and his students are cooking up a storm. For every dish they make, students have to do a cost analysis of the materials and present and explain the recipe. So, “instead of saying, ‘This is a banana cream pie,’ students can say, “this has caramelized bananas and a chocolate crust,” said Sutherland, who is preparing them for a culinary competition in February.

Both students and staff members appear to be making the best of the situation, district Executive Director of Secondary Education Patrick Murphy said.

“The whole idea of putting some more hands on electives is a great idea,” Murphy said.

Marcoe has pie-in-the-sky hopes for Tiger Mountain’s culinary arts program. He said he hopes his students could start catering school and community events. If the culinary program excels, perhaps in the future students could be shuttled to Liberty High School, which has an advanced culinary arts program, Marcoe said.

The Thanksgiving dinner Tiger Mountain hosts annually is still scheduled, but students might have to use a smaller kitchen in another classroom if the remodel is under way. Without the commons, which is connected to the kitchen, the dinner will be served in the outdoor, under-cover sports facility, though the school will have heat lamps, Marcoe said.

“We’re going to be like the pilgrims,” he said. “Hopefully, it won’t be too rainy.”

Student concerns

Students in the leadership class at Tiger Mountain have voiced their concerns not only about the delay in the kitchen remodel, but also about the physical appearance of their school. The campus, home to 90 students, is composed of several, permanent, portable classrooms, some of which have wires hanging haphazardly from the walls or ceilings.

At the Nov. 10 Issaquah school board meeting, three students asked for a completion date for the kitchen remodel, as well as repairs for several maintenance problems, like outlets coming off of walls and exposing wires.

“It’s just a whole bunch of small things that we shouldn’t have to deal with in the first place,” senior Haiden Johnson said. “They could easily be fixed, but they’re not.”

Multimedia teacher Sheila Thacker said she was concerned about loose wires running from outlets on the wall, across the floor and to her desk. Two thick black wires hang from the ceiling and connect to power strips on the floor.

“For a technology room, it just doesn’t look right,” Thacker said. “I just want it to be safe down here.”

She added she “loved this room, it’s great. It’s just a few things.”

Murphy visited the school Nov. 10 to explain the delays surrounding the kitchen remodel, and Marcoe said he walked through the school with several students to identify maintenance problems, some of which were fixed Nov. 12.

Other cosmetic problems will have to wait, such as water-stained ceiling tiles that are brown from a leaky roof that has since been fixed.

Marcoe said he has asked students and teachers to contact him about maintenance issues, and he commended the students for stepping forward. He encouraged all students who were still concerned about their school to talk to their teachers, or to him.

“I am just so proud of the kids,” he said. “They saw some things and they reported it.”

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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