LAYTON -- With about 1,700 students sharing one lunch period, Layton High School, thanks in part to a $23 million two-phase construction upgrade, has a new cafeteria and commons area that allows them to eat and meet together.
"It's big and beautiful -- a ton more room to socialize," Layton High sophomore class officer Breann Wise said of the school's new amenities.
"I like the cafeteria, how everyone is together," she said of the terraced cafeteria that offers table seats as well as standing-room counter space.
Before the cafeteria's January opening, students gathered for lunch in the halls in different places throughout the school, Breann said. The old cafeteria and old commons area space was significantly smaller.
School officials say the new Layton High commons and cafeteria -- set for an official ribbon-cutting at 5:30 p.m. Monday as part of the incoming sophomores' orientation -- is "at least triple" the size of the old cafeteria and commons area.
The expanded commons/cafeteria area is similar in design to the recent renovation of Davis High School's cafeteria, said Shauna Lund, community relations specialist for Davis School District.
The renovation work allows more natural light into the school building, making the commons area more open and bright.
The cafeteria and expanded commons are the two latest projects to be completed as part of an overhaul of the school.
Construction plans for the work began in 2009 with the voter-approved Davis School District $250 million bond. That bond has been used to help pay for some of the project, which continues until next school year, with additional classroom space now being added.
The work is expected to address projected student growth at the school over the next 30 years, officials said.
The two-phase project includes the addition of 20 classrooms, a media center, the remodeled and expanded Little Theater, the expanded commons area and the creation of a more school-centralized cafeteria, Lund said.
"I love it. It's a lot bigger. There is more spots for people to stand," said Andy Sheehan, a junior at the school.
Having to endure the renovation project, he said, has totally been worth it.
Layton High Vice Principal Mark Pendleton said students have been patient for the past two years of reconstruction.
"The kids have been really good."
Having no single place for them to come together while the work was taking place made things "a little stir crazy," but now that the expanded commons/cafeteria area is open, students have been filling it up, he said.
The commons area has gained instant popularity with students, with the space serving as the area where the school's "sweetheart dance" was held earlier this month.
"It has a great sound system," Pendleton said.
And the way the commons area and cafeteria are designed, with the school's new administrative offices adjacent to them, Pendleton said, also made the dance "easy to supervise from an adult point of view."
Layton High junior Destrie Flint said she likes how the commons area is more open, and she enjoys the high ceilings that let in a lot of natural light.
"The architect brought daylight in every chance he could," Pendleton said.
However, at least one student misses the old commons area.
"I was used to the old commons," said senior Savanna Odekirk, who found the old surroundings more "homey."
"I think the cafeteria is much more efficient," said Savanna, who admits the best of both worlds would be to have the old commons area next to the new cafeteria.
But the school ambassador appears to be in the minority.
"I like how it is brighter because of the (skylight) windows," junior A.J. Barraza said of the commons area. "The colors are better."
The school had few windows and a small cafeteria stuck in a corner where there couldn't be supervision, Gary Payne, administrator of facilities, management and planning for the school district, said of Layton High.
"The layout of the school was problematic for administration."
In addition to the 15,000 square feet of interior space having been added to the school, landscaping has been improved and the parking lot redesigned to add 50 parking slots.
The renovation also includes new plumbing, heating and air, and a security alarm system, Pendleton said.
Bryan Turner, director of school district architectural services, said it is less expensive to invest $23 million in the 47-year-old Layton High and have it last another 30 years than to spend $70 million to build a new high school of the same size.