Expanded facilities are recipe for success at Leechburg Area High School
There’s no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen at Leechburg Area High School now.
A new, expansive Family and Consumer Science Room renovation project was completed last year, providing five state-of-the-art kitchen areas for students in grades 7-12 enrolled in various cooking classes, culinary arts, finance, sports nutrition and child development.
Food service classes had been located in the basement, with a more than 30-year-old kitchen, said teacher Jill Shipman.
“The students are anxious to work and learn in here,” Shipman said. “We have so much space now, and I have even brought in a guest chef speaker and we host other classes, such as kindergarten, for cooking.”
Two former computer classrooms on the fifth floor were converted, offering a new, open classroom and kitchen floor plan.
A wall and closet were removed to accommodate the renovations and the computer room was relocated to another room on campus.
“We received all new upgraded equipment in the kitchen areas from the appliances, counter tops, cabinets, sinks and more,” Shipman said. “The functionality of the classroom and kitchens is the main new key feature. I have to thank the administration for supporting the arts here at Leechburg.”
Each kitchen is color-coded with a vibrant Kitchen-Aid mixer in one of the following colors: purple, green, red, orange or blue — signifying where cooking supplies are stored.
A spacious open-air classroom area is a welcome benefit, said Shipman, who teaches a variety of cooking arts and consumer science classes.
“Before, I had to teach and cook in the same area,” she said.
The students love the bright space, complete with numerous windows offering views of downtown Leechburg and the numerous tables that allow for communal dining after food dishes are prepared.
“I like this new space because it is more organized and has cool new seats in the classroom,” said third-year culinary student Anthony Mangee, a junior. “I know my way around the kitchen now. I like to cook pasta and cookies.”
The renovations were financed by district bond monies used for district-wide renovations. The former food and consumer science room had deteriorating conditions such as cracked floors and currently is under renovation with plans to utilize the space for faculty needs.
In the current STEM-heavy world of academics, Shipman is proud to teach important life skills necessary to “adult” once students leave Leechburg to pursue college or employment.
“Life skills are the basis to being successful in the tech world,” Shipman said. “Skills gained in FCS classes deepen the knowledge needed to explore, innovate and create technology needed in our daily society.”
Shipman hosted a guest chef speaker last semester and, with the new FCS room, she plans to welcome more projects, speakers and other grade levels into her classroom.
New to the room are multiple dining tables, so students now eat together and sample cooked creations such as macaroni and cheese, pasta and desserts.
Shipman offers regionally-themed culinary projects focusing on all areas of the United States.
This week, students were cooking homemade macaroni and cheese, part of a southern menu line-up.
“The kitchen is so much better. It’s such a great transformation,” said senior Alyssa Avalos. “My favorite food I have cooked has been the spinach and artichoke dip.”
“We recently hosted the kindergarten classes to bake more than 500 cookies that were gifted to the Leechburg Police Department. With so much more additional square footage, the students are able to have more space to prepare recipes and work on projects.”
Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.