RANTOUL — Harriet Nelson from “Ozzie and Harriet” fame or Lucy Ricardo from “I Love Lucy” would be right at home in the foods room at Rantoul Township High School.

It’s straight out of the 1950s, Superintendent Scott Amerio said.

That changes this summer when it catches up to the 21st Century.

“We’re going to move more toward a food production-type environment,” Amerio said. “All the case work will be taken out and not replaced. It will be like free-standing shelving.”

A south wall will be removed, creating a larger classroom setting. Some of the new equipment has already arrived.

Kinniya Lewis

Kinniya Lewis, a junior at RTHS, is shown at a sink in the foods room.  

Funding for the work will come through the Education for Employment Office, state career tech education money and federal grant money. All of the remodeling work cost will be paid from district funds.

The first phase of the work was approved at the February board meeting, including removal of the flooring. Bloomington-based Ideal Environmental was approved for the project at a cost of $19,877.

The project will be approved in three phases. The second phase will include architectural plans for much of the mechanical portion. RTHS personnel will do some of the work.

The school’s industrial tech department, headed by Budd Root, did the design work.

More powerful appliances will be added, which will require an upgrade of the electrical service.

Shawn Hoeft, a family and consumer sciences teacher at RTHS, said the curriculum focus is different from the homemaking skills targeted when the foods room was built. The curriculum features more of a workplaces skills target than when it was first built, designed to help students find jobs “in a commercial kitchen or banquet or serving industry.”

Foods room

A portion of the foods room, vintage 1950s-style, at Rantoul Township High School.

Amerio joked that Hoeft had been lobbying him for an upgrade for the past five years.

“But I’ve only been here four years,” Hoeft pointed out.

“In looking at the equipment and how it was laid out and some of the things in the cabinets, it was for cooking at home, preparing meals, entertaining versus the banquet and commercial aspect,” Hoeft said.

She said there are students who are interested in going into the commercial food work after school, and some former RTHS students are enrolled in culinary school.

Hoeft said it’s hard work in the culinary field, but it pays fairly well.

Added Amerio: “One of the cool things we have coming up, in a lot of our career classes what they’re wanting us to move to is team-based challenges. We did a food challenge this year. One in the classroom had Eric (Thompson) from ET’s (restaurant) be one of the celebrity judges. The winning team from our school competed at a regional competition at Parkland with other high schools in the area. Getting new facilities will spur some excitement.”

Amerio said both family and consumer science teachers at RTHS have full loads because of the popularity of classes.

Hoeft said while seniors feel “ripped off” because they won’t get to work in the new foods room, underclass students are excited.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com