Thursday, February 18, 2010
A planned Culinary Arts Center to be built on the James Logan campus was effectively canceled last month when the New Haven school board redirected money previously set aside for the project.
In a January New Haven school board meeting, the trustees approved the recapturing of eight million dollars they previously budgeted for the center and other projects. About $6.9 million of this was budgeted for a new Culinary Arts Center on the James Logan campus. Construction originally was going to begin in the summer of 2008.
The center was to include classrooms, training kitchens, and a full-service, 75-person restaurant. The plans were for it to be built on the corner of Alvarado Blvd. and Hartnell, taking up 8513 square feet. The money to build it came from Measure B, which was also used to fund the new Performing Arts Center.
State budget woes forced the recapturing of the funds.
According to Amy McNamara, principal of James Logan, “one of the challenges is that the bond money needed a [state] match." At this time, the state does not have enough money to give out matching funds, and the bond money the district has is not enough either. McNamara says that the current economic times also make the feasibility of running a restaurant unrealistic, because it is a “tough industry.”
Another problem facing the Culinary Center is funding from the Regional Occupation Program (ROP.) ROP used to pay the salaries of the cooking teachers, but has faced severe cutbacks. McNamara said that these cutbacks to ROP make it a less feasible partner in the venture to create a new Culinary Center.
The district must also now step in and pay the salaries of the cooking teachers to keep the current classes offered at Logan open, which it intends to do, she said.
While there is no official plan for what to do with the recaptured money now, it will be redirected to ‘immediate District-wide needs” and “priority projects”, according to Rick La Plante, the school district's public Information Officer. La Plante identified these needs as replacing unsafe stadium bleachers, repairing the flood damage in the 200’s wing of Logan, adding more video surveilance, and buying locks and peepholes for doors.
McNamara favors modernizing the current kitchens at Logan, and moving the EMP Academy into the soon-to-be vacated music buildings. She said there is a “small pot of money, and too many projects”.
Chef Herve LeBiavant has been the head of the foods programs at Logan since 2007. LeBiavant taught for 18 years previously, but also worked as a chef in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and the California Culinary Academy. Macnamara said that the shelving of the Culinary Arts Center was “very disappointing” to him, especially coupled with the prospects of not having a full time job when ROP cut back.
LeBiavant declined to comment.
The Culinary Arts Center is not completely dead yet, though. It is still a possibility for the future and is a “great idea,” according to Macnamara.