FEMA Storm shelter, auditorium proposed for Purdy school district

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Facility would have room to house all residents of the city

Plans for an extensive storm shelter for the Purdy school district, one with enough room to house event resident in town, were unveiled recently at the district.

Kirsten Whitehead, project manager for Paragon Architecture of Springfield, the firm hired for the gym entrance and cafeteria renovation, displayed a conceptual design for the new building. Incorporating the current preschool building site, the building would be located slightly north and west of the high school, absorbing part of the elementary playground but offering potential for parking off Highway C.

Whitehead showed how a building for the preschool could attach on the north of the precast concrete square shelter. She proposed a common open area, as proscribed by health department standards, adjacent to a warming kitchen. The wall between the two could be removed, expanding the space for an event. The preschool would have 3,000 square feet of space. Combined with the kitchen, the facility would have 3,400 square feet.

Whitehead proposed building the FEMA structure, connected on the south, as a permanent auditorium that descends to a stage. For functionality, she suggested building storage space under the auditorium. The hall itself would have roughly 290 permanent seats and additional removable seats at front. She suggested having part of the stage, 24 inches off the ground, that could pull out into the temporary seating area, adding about a third to the stage space.

The rear of the hall would also have a mezzanine, where the district could install retractable bleachers. In all, the hall would have seating for 775 people. With the square footage inside the structure, Whitehead said FEMA's formula would have room for 1,400 people.

There are no storm shelters in the city of Purdy. The Federal Census estimated in 2013, the community had a population of 1,101.

Superintendent Steven Chancellor said running fiber optics would be the most difficult preparation cost. Seating, lighting, curtains, acoustical panels and accessories would roughly cost $300,000. If the FEMA portion cost $1.9 million to $2.3 million, and the preschool cost $825,000, Whitehead estimated the entire project would cost $3,175,000, if done all at once.

The early childhood building would extend wider than the FEMA building, creating a "T" configuration. That leaves room, down the west side of the T, for additional classrooms, as a later date. An extra classroom, for use by the choir, could be built into the corner of the "L" shaped early childhood classroom. That could provide an ideal space for tending to crying children during events, Chancellor noted.

Board members asked about locations for a loading ramp and additional

doors. Whitehead advised placing all needed doors at the time of construction. FEMA buildings require so much rebar, she noted, that adding entrances later becomes very expensive if not completely impractical. The arrangement as proposed did not offer covered access to the stage for performers, which concerned board members.

Asked about the distance involved in moving the entire student body to the facility, Chancellor said FEMA sets a five-minute limit. Time trials showed students from the vocational agriculture classroom on the southeast corner of the campus could make the trip in 3.5 minutes. Space around the building offered several options for parking, which could be sorted out later.

"I feel confident in our plan," Whitehead said. "If you have concerns, bring them up. Once we have base plans, we'll go vertical and see what this animal will look like."

Chancellor planned to schedule a tour for board members of the performing arts facilities built into FEMA storm shelters in Monett and Cassville. He said Purdy's design should fall somewhere between the two.

Another round of FEMA funding will take place this summer. Purdy has fallen short of the funding cut twice, but has inched closer toward acceptance. By packaging the storm shelter as a facility for the full community, school officials feel their chances for approval should improve.

Chancellor planned to bring ballot language before the board to place a bond issue on the Aug. 2 ballot. If approved, the district could move rapidly into the design and bidding stages, having the necessary 25 percent match for a FEMA grant in hand.

If FEMA funding does not come through, Chancellor would like to move forward adding classrooms on the southwest corner of the elementary school, in a hallway extending south.

"We're already out of room for next year," Chancellor said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: