Great Plains culinary arts area ready for construction

Empty space marks what had been Great Plains Technology Center’s kitchen, dining room and class space for two separate programs. By August 2020, the space will become the modernized culinary arts program, while also restoring the building’s dining room.

Great Plains Technology Center is looking for contractors as it prepares to move into the construction phase of the culinary arts upgrade.

The project, which will modernize one of the center’s popular courses, has left the main building without kitchen and dining facilities through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. But, once back on line in August 2020, the area will offer a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and a designated teaching lab, along with a restored dining room that Great Plains student, faculty and staff can use for daily meals.

Construction is focusing on the east wing of Building 100, the original technology center and the oldest building on the Great Plains campus. Formerly, the area featured a dining room and small commercial kitchen immediately east of the main entrance, with small class space and storage areas behind the public areas. Continuing east was the graphic arts class, which has been permanently moved to another part of campus.

Today, everything is gone and there is 14,000 square feet of open space waiting to be transformed into its new use.

Workers have completed almost all of the interior demolition, architect Steve Wood, with BYSP Architects, said during a pre-bid conference with general contractors and subcontractors. Wood estimated 85 percent of the demolition associated with the project is done; there will be some additional work needed once construction begins.

That will include construction of the walls and infrastructure necessary to support classes and equipment. It also will include some concrete work, Wood said, explaining there are rough patches in the now-exposed foundation that will have to be redone.

The pride of the new culinary arts area just might be the new production kitchen, designed by experts to mimic the commercial kitchens that students will actually use when they get jobs. There also is the culinary teaching lab, the first time Great Plains students will have that luxury. Until now, culinary students have been using converted class space or crowding around an instructor in the small kitchen.

Great Plains officials aren’t wasting any time with the project. BYSP Architects has scheduled its bid opening for 2 p.m. Tuesday, with the Board of Education slated to meet in a special noon session on Friday to award the contract.

Time is of the essence because Great Plains Superintendent Clarence Fortney has said the project must be completed in time for the 2020-2021 school year. Wood said the estimated completion date is July 24, 2020, giving contractors some time before students arrive on campus for classes to begin Aug. 10, 2020. Fortney said last week he is comfortable that timeline will be met.

“It’s a nice, clear project,” Wood said, noting the advantage is that all the work will be done inside, meaning winter weather won’t have an impact.

Fortney said Great Plains made arrangements for the project by paring down the culinary arts program. Culinary arts is a two-year program, meaning Great Plains typically has one first-year class and one second-year class. This year, it has only the second-year class, students who started the program in the 2018-2019 school year. No first-year students were chosen for the 2019-2020 year, Fortney said, explaining that was an effort to keep the program small.

Second-year students are getting their training in the commercial kitchen in the Business Development Center, an incubator that offers amenities for small business owners seeking to get off the ground. Culinary arts students are working around scheduled commercial users, sharing that kitchen space, Fortney said.

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