Millions of Americans prefer to start their day with a hot cup of coffee before they head to work.
Apparently some high school students are the same. And thanks to a recent addition at Mitchell High School, students and staff there are able to get their coffee fix and a spot to decompress at the One11 Cafe, a remodeled classroom that now serves as a coffee shop on campus.
The idea was the brainchild of staffers at Mitchell High School who thought it would be a beneficial addition to campus life at the school, said Joe Childs, principal at Mitchell High School.
“Our librarian, Carolyn Sivik, was one of the first on board with this project. She wanted to explore an option for having a coffee shop in the school library,” Childs said.
An exploration into that possibility showed that the library at the high school did not have the utilities needed to add a coffee shop.
“We started to explore the space. We were initially looking at the library, which would be a nice spot and attract student traffic, so we looked there first,” Childs said. “But the space just didn’t have the utilities to make it happen. Once we determined that we couldn’t have it there we started looking for a classroom.”
School officials eventually zeroed in on a former Family and Consumer Sciences classroom that had all the requirements to accommodate a small coffee shop, complete with tables, chairs and other accoutrements of a stylish watering hole.
“It was born then. It took on paint. They resurfaced the cabinets, they moved in the ice machine, the coffee-making equipment,” Childs said. “They made the space very nice looking. It’s a comfortable space.”
Leann Carmody, food service director for Mitchell High School and one of the staff members who helped bring the cafe to life as well as occasionally works at the counter, said the former classroom space was much better suited to their needs than the library.
“It’s a lot bigger space, which is really nice,” Carmody said. “We could take it full-scale; instead of having a little coffee shop through a window, now we have the whole room -- the whole package."
The design of the space serves an important role in making the One11 Cafe, named for the classroom number of the space it now occupies, a spot that enhances the school experience for students, faculty and staff.
More dining options
“This space provides another option for our students. It’s not just a space for lunch or coffee. We wanted something that was new and unique and would draw student attention, but it’s also very much about learning,” Childs said. “We need to have spaces that are comfortable for our students. We know we need a space that encourages conversations. And because it has drawn teachers, administrators and students, it’s been a really neat learning environment.”
Students can get drinks and food using their school meal plan anytime during the school day, outside of class or during free periods. Childs said some items from the cafeteria can be found on the menu at One11 Cafe, and the shop offers some unique items on occasion. Items available in the shop adhere to the healthy food requirements of the regular school meal program, Childs said. The shop is operated by members of the food service staff.
“It’s pretty much the same kind of food we’re getting through the cafeteria. During lunch there may be something a little more unique. We might have a sandwich that they’re not offering in the regular line. But what seems to be the draw is that this is the only line you can go through and get your coffee,” Childs said.
The drinks are a popular item, for both those who like coffee and those who don’t, Carmody said.
“We do breakfast and lunch and you can get a coffee with that. We also do Italian sodas, which is a can of club soda, milk and a flavoring of your choice, as well,” Carmody said.
Carmody said students can get breakfast and lunch at the cafe, whether or not they are on the district meal plan.
“We offer the whole meal down here, so it is reimbursable for every student, whether they are on the meal plan or not. So that way it’s not just for kids who can afford to get a coffee. It’s for every single kid here,” Carmody said.
The new spot has even had an impact on the number of kids utilizing the school meal program.
“It’s been huge. We’ve seen a lot more meals out of here, so it’s been great. We have sold just as many lunches down here as we would over there and then twice as many breakfasts. And the hours of being open all day helps a lot,” Carmody said.
Renovations on the room began near the end of the 2018-19 school year and continued throughout the summer. The One11 Cafe officially launched just before the start of this school year, offering free samples to students during the time before the school year when students register for classes.
Positive social impact
Childs said one of the main benefits to having the shop on campus is providing a positive social space for students to interact with the larger school family that includes staff, faculty and administration. It also encourages students to stay on campus when they may otherwise seek out their coffee elsewhere in the community.
“It’s about the social aspect as much as anything. Kids are in there with friends. They’re still utilizing other spaces just as much, but they’re now coming to school and stopping there and heading to the library or to see their teachers,” Childs said. “Several students who would leave during lunch are now sticking around. More than ever, they’re staying around our campus.”
Carmody has seen the affect the cafe has had on students, and she is pleased with how they are responding.
“I think they enjoy having a place to go in between their classes. And I get to see the kids, which is the best part of my job,” Carmody said.
Childs said early indications show that the One11 Cafe has been a success with students and staff at the school. And the district will keep an eye open for other opportunities to provide helpful educational and social options for its students, Childs said.
“You don’t always want to be the first on board with every trend when it comes to things like coffee shops and such, but we’re always looking for a way to create a comfortable learning environment for our students,” Childs said. “We can keep them on campus and keep them engaged with their friends and classmates and keep them safe. That’s what we’re looking for.”