WESTON, Mo. — Life skills students at West Platte High School are getting a chance to learn a little of what it takes to operate a business and serve customers while providing their teachers and classmates with tasty morning beverages.
West Platte Coffee and Tea opened in the old high school commons concession area when school returned to session after winter break, with five students volunteering to learn the barista ropes and special education teacher Lorie Russell at the helm. It was an endeavor years in the making, as staff members such as Steph Rotterman had slowly accumulated equipment and talked about the possibilities as neighboring districts, including Platte County, established student-run coffee shops.
“With all the construction, it seemed like the perfect time to add this to the life skills program,” said West Platte director of special services Dr. Regina Knott.
The concession area was converted into a handicapped-accessible kitchen adjacent to the renovated and expanded life skills area for special needs students. Not only can students learn essential cooking and cleaning skills in the new shop, they can get a little on-the-job training to help them transition into working life after high school.
“The coffee shop is a great place for students to learn to take orders, serve customers, run a register and experience the hard work of cleaning up,” Russell said.
Some parts of that are understandably more palatable to the students than others.
“I like it,” said junior William Vinyard of making drinks and serving customers. To the idea of cleaning and doing laundry, Vinyard shook his head.
A competition to design the shop logo was held within one of the art classes at West Platte, and the logo, along with a menu, decorates the exterior of West Platte Coffee and Tea. Izzy Fishburn designed the winning logo, while other logo entries in competition for the honor will be displayed in the shop.
The menu includes both regular and decaf coffee — freshly ground on site — hot chocolate, green and black tea and iced mocha smoothies. Sugar-free flavor shots are also available at an additional cost.
In accordance with state standards, the entire shop is sugar free and hot chocolate and mocha mixes are made with low-fat milk and mixes. Punch cards for frequent customersare available for purchase as well.
“We don’t want the menu to get too big,” Russell said. “It should stay manageable.”
Hours of operation are from 7:30 to 8:10 a.m. on school days. Parents and the public are welcome to come in as well, although visitors must enter through the office and follow security procedure.
While growing the business remains a possibility, the life lessons will continue to take precedence in West Platte’s unique venture.
“It would be great to make a profit, but my hope is that it can break even and that the kids will benefit from it,” Russell said.
Teachers, who already have a busy morning schedule, may order coffee online and have it delivered by students from 8:10 to 8:30 a.m. Later in the spring, Knott said, they may consider expanding that service to parents dropping their students off in the morning.