Purdy schools change 
direction of storm shelter plan

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Playground area west of school offers better site for community facility

Plans for additional facilities for the Purdy school district, including a storm shelter, have changed, making a public vote in August on a new bond issue more likely.

Brad Erwin, architect with Paragon Architecture, said Purdy did not win funding under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's latest round of grants for storm safe rooms. The panel of federal and state officials awarding grants had $5.3 million in federal funds available this year, considerably less than the $100 million available in 2011 after the tornado in Joplin. Six districts other than Purdy received grants.

Superintendent Steven Chancellor had promoted the plan to build a storm shelter. In light of the latest developments, Chancellor suggested a different plan, coupled with a new strategy proposed by Erwin.

The space previously considered for the storm safe room, tucked between the elementary and high school wings, seems more unsatisfactory than initially hoped. The square footage available in that site is too narrow for the 7,900 square foot proposal, Chancellor said, with too much infrastructure underground. Due to other considerations, Chancellor began looking elsewhere.

"Our enrollment rate has changed a lot in the last four years," Chancellor said. "It's been on a rocket, adding kids left and right. Every week we're getting new kids. At what point do we need a new campus, with a cafeteria and a gym?"

With that in mind, Chancellor said the FEMA grant team looks at proposals, draws a circle from the spot and considers how long it will take non-school users to reach the site. To enhance the district's proposal as a community shelter, one that Purdy presently lacks, and one that would fit into a new campus, Chancellor refocused his sights on the property west of the high school, where the preschool now stands, adjacent to the large playground area. The new shelter would incorporate the preschool, now located in a house purchased by the district.

School Board Member Ronnie Veith suggested building on the present baseball field, which Chancellor felt sat too far away from the center of town.

School Board Member Ed Mareth suggested the city might consider swapping the elementary playground for the city park. That idea had merit, but Board President Randy Henderson observed the drainage ditch limited the amount of useable land in the park, plus Chancellor said the significant change in elevation could make construction difficult.

Erwin asked board members to consider how FEMA awards grants. The grant committee strives to spend all of its allocated funds. If the committee does not have all of the $1.73 million requested by Purdy left over after awarding other grants, Erwin suggested taking a two-pronged approach: having a second grant proposal for a lesser amount ready to consider as well. If others getting grants did not spend all the funds they received, Purdy could end up with a bigger grant in the end. The district would have to bear more of the costs to add onto a smaller grant to build the same sized project, but at least the district would have funding.

"They might contact us if we're close to the amount," Erwin said. "They've done that before."

Purdy's application can remain on the table as submitted. A second, smaller grant application could be prepared and submitted later. Erwin said only two districts have applications in at the present time.

In the meantime, Chancellor said the board needed to consider adding more classroom space. He and Erwin walked the grounds and found room for four more classrooms on the west side of the agriculture building, which could connect to the south side of the middle school with a hallway.

Chancellor felt the district could propose a bond issue large enough to cover its portion of the storm shelter and additional classrooms at the same time.

Board members authorized a $9,500 pre-bond agreement with Paragon to lay out options for the building, study the flow of traffic between facilities and draw a broad picture for how the additions would fit into the district's master facilities plan. These details, Chancellor said, would then serve as campaign materials for presenting the proposal to the public. If the voters approved, the $9,500 will go toward the district's contract cost in preparing the construction plan.

Chancellor indicated the district has until the third week in May to file a proposal for voters to consider during the Aug. 2 primary election.

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