QUEENS (WABC) — Renaissance Middle School in Queens was just one stop in New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks’ tour on the first day of classes.
“The first day of school. You know, sometimes there’s always a little anxiousness, right?” Banks said. “You kind of get the butterflies out. But, everything I’m seeing and everything that I’m hearing is good news.”
Students had plenty to be excited about. The school served up a brand new cafeteria.
“I started screaming because it was last year and I remember it being just like the coolest thing ever, because I’ve never seen like a lunchroom that looked like this,” one student said.
“It was singular chairs and it was a table with a bench on either side. But, now there are booths. Honestly, my first reaction was eating in a restaurant. I love that,” another student said.
The New York City Department of Education says $50 million helped transform school cafeterias, primarily in older buildings or low-income communities, just in time for the new school year.
They are the same food offerings, just presented in a different way.
“This is a reimagined way for students to be able to experience dining in New York City schools,” said Christopher Tricarico, the Senior Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services for New York City Public Schools. “Instead of our folks serving children, this is a self-serve option all the way from hot to cold to fruit and a salad bar.”
Students also recognized a smoother experience in line.
“I feel like it’s much less chaotic before because before, like, there would be a lot of pushing and a lot of skipping,” a student said.
The school’s principal says the COVID-19 pandemic and remote learning created an appetite for more collaboration.
“Over here there’s a Smartboard. They can play games there. We have a video game system that’s connected to it. There can be studying over on that side,” said Nora Brackett, principal. “Due to COVID, they spent a lot of time isolated. And so, one of the things that we want to do is put them together more.”
They’re forging new friendships.
In all, the education department says 90 schools received an upgraded dining experience.
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