Chow’s on: Gators get new cafeteria

Ava Privatsky, Asher Thompkins, Kailie and Jacob Garcia had the honors of cutting the ribbon.

Gubser Elementary School families along with city and Salem-Keizer Public School officials celebrated the substantial completion of the first project to arise from a $619 million bond approved by voters in 2018. 

The Gubser renovations included a new cafeteria, kitchen, three new classrooms, and two new covered play areas behind the school. 

“These changes ensure students will be One Gubser when they eat lunch in addition to when they are out in the community,” said Tom Charboneau, the incoming first-year principal of the Gators. 

The biggest change to the school is a dedicated cafeteria. Students once crammed into a small space to eat hot lunch while others ate outside their classrooms in spaces known as “pods.” The new cafeteria was a covered play area just a few months ago, but the Gators received two new covered play areas in exchange for the old one. 

Students Jacob and Kailie Garcia, Asher Thompkins and Ava Privatsky helped christen the new space with a ribbon-cutting ceremony after a string of local dignitaries offered their congratulations. 

“Many of you know how important it is to Keizer to take care of our children and we never hesitate to jump forward for them. Because of your support, we’ll be doing projects like this all across the school district,” said Danielle Bethell, Keizer’s representative on the Salem-Keizer School Board. “It’s a huge deal and I hope each one of you pay attention to the work being done across the district.”

Attendees packed the tables inside the new Gubser cafeteria.

Mayor Cathy Clark commended voters who supported the bond at the ballot box. 

“This is part of what you bought – an appropriate, safe, inviting and nurturing space for the most important part of our community, the children,” Clark said. 

New classrooms were added to the north end of the building and the main office was restructured for greater visibility as people enter and leave the building. General capacity at the school increased by roughly 100 students, enough to absorb projected growth for the coming two decades. 

The Gubser renovations were not initially planned as part of the first wave of bond projects, but district officials took advantage of openings in the construction schedule to move it up the to-do list. Once fully complete, the district’s investment in the school will amount to roughly $5.5 million. The district was able to remove portable classrooms from the campus as a result of the renovations.