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Breaking Bread, Breaking Ground
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Oakdale Joint Unified School District Food Service Manager Angie Cazares directs her attention to one of the many dry rot areas of the aging Central Kitchen. The manager along with her staff is anxiously awaiting the completion of the new kitchen structure. - photo by Teresa Hammond/The Leader

At a ceremony on July 15, Oakdale Joint Unified School District officials broke ground for the new 5000-square foot steel structure that will be the Central Kitchen. This will be the first of a handful of projects spearheaded by the Facilities Committee.

“This marks the beginning of a process which started three years ago,” OJUSD Superintendent Marc Malone said at the ground breaking. Malone emphasized that the project is not adding to the town tax burden and is, “by and large being paid through developer fee monies.”

The free standing building will be erected directly behind the existing Central Kitchen on East D Street, replacing the portables close to four decades in age.

“This will be a free engineered metal building,” Mike Mastagni of Acme Construction stated. “This is a six-month project.”

It is the hope of both Malone and Food Service Manager Angie Cazares that the facility will be up and running by the start of the second semester of the coming school year, in early 2015.

“The design of this building is going to save us a lot of time and be much more efficient,” Cazares shared. The kitchen manager highlighted the covered and easily accessible freezer space as the top highlight for herself and the staff.

Cazares first joined OJUSD in late July of 2013. She has past experience with both Patterson and Ceres school districts.

“We are very excited and can’t wait for it to be done,” she stated.

According to Malone, the central kitchen services all four elementary schools – Cloverland, Fair Oaks, Magnolia and Sierra View – in the district, as well as Oakdale Junior High, Oakdale High School and handles some additional subcontract work. By early 2015 the kitchen will prepare meals for approximately 3,500 students daily.

The facility serves as the hub of prep for all the school sites, aside from OHS, which handles its own prep and cooking.

The existing central kitchen is well past the portable “life expectancy” of 20 years, official noted, and is in failing condition. The cost for the new structure is estimated at $1.1 million. The funds will be allocated from a combination of developer fees and project savings which is at approximately $3.5 million from the Office of Public School Construction.

“This is an example of a board and an administration that is so in sync,” school board member Mike Tozzi told the assembled group at last week’s groundbreaking ceremony. “In good times and bad our motto is ‘Move Forward.’ This building is an example of that.”

The next two projects earmarked by the Facilities Committee will be multi-purpose rooms for Fair Oaks and Cloverland elementary schools.