New and improved, a school lunchroom with diner-style flair

Councilman Jimmy Vacca with students from IS 192 usher in new and improved cafeteria.
Photo by Alex Belisle

It’s been described as a shoebox, a school cafeteria so cramped it left little elbow room for students.

But now the eatery at I.S. 192 Piagentini-Jones Campus has turned into a visual feast for students and teachers.

They’re taking their lunch break in a colossal cafe featuring roundtables, HDTV’s and several diner-style booths that have become something of hallmark for the new and improved dining room.

“Students think it looks like a restaurant,” said Mary-Anne Sheppard, principal of X366 Urban Assembly Academy of Civic Engagement, one of three schools housed within the Throggs Neck campus.

Jennie Garrison, principal of Mott Hall Community School, was certainly thrilled to see the makeover, remembering the limited space in and around the eatery.

“They couldn’t get in or out of their chairs because of the benches,” said Garrison, adding the lack of space “crunched up” the kids.

Eighth grader Dynalee Rosario was glad to wolf down her burger and fries at the new cafeteria, remembering how rundown the old one used to be.

“The tables would be chipped and rough,” said Dynalee, who already carved out space at the corner end of the cafeteria.

Eric Rumardo, 12, was definitely not a fan of the worn-out tables. “It never felt clean.”

These days he shares a booth with pal Vanessa Ortiz, 12, thrilled to see the “uncomfortable” cafeteria replaced.

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who earmarked $250,000 needed to revamp the cafeteria, stopped by Monday, Feb. 4 to join students at a grand opening ceremony where a poster reading, “Thank you for our new cafeteria Councilman Vacca” hung from the ceiling.

“This cafeteria encourages conversation,” said Vacca, who also allocated funds several years ago to spruce up the school library.

He also took a moment to remind kids to “eat healthy” and back away from sugary drinks.

Jennifer Joynt, principal of X371 Urban Institute of Mathematics, was involved in designing the cafeteria’s look.

“We wanted to change the vibe of the cafeteria,” said Joynt. “It was a little too sterile before.”

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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