Board approves BMS cafeteria expansion


By a 4-0 vote, the Wicomico County Board of Education on Tuesday agreed to spend $1.4 million to enlarge the cafeteria at Bennett Middle School.

Funding is already available, Liesl Ashby, Director of Facility Services for Planning and Construction, stated in a news release.

“We have the funds for the cafeteria expansion since the original construction of Bennett Middle came in under budget. This project would be completed without impacting other project priorities and their associated funding requests,” Ashby stated.

Construction could begin as early as December and be completed by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.

Overcrowding in the cafeteria has caused safety concerns among staff and students and reportedly resulted in injuries since the school opened in Fruitland in August 2015.

Originally designed for the 2013-2014 school year, when the projected student enrollment was 988 students, the cafeteria has a capacity for 335 students.

Currently, the school has 1,058 students.

Six additional tables have been placed on the stage, causing concern for some parents.

Heather Smith is quoted in the news release as saying her daughter, a student at BMS, is “often uncomfortable during lunch.”

“Because the seats are so close together, if she leans back, she would accidentally bump into, or even elbow, someone, and that could cause a confrontation. Plus, you have to walk sideways just to get to your seat,” Smith stated.

Superintendent Dr. Donna C. Hanlin said student safety is a priority in all Wicomico County schools.

“After seeing what safety challenges are being caused in the cafeteria at Bennett Middle, it is necessary to prioritize this expansion for the start of the 2018-2019 school year,” Hanlin stated.


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