Grundy Center school getting tornado safe room

GRUNDY CENTER – Well before the May tragedy of a tornado hitting a school in Moore, Okla., Grundy Center school leaders were planning to add a tornado safe room at the secondary school.

With a sizable FEMA grant leading the way, plans at Grundy Center include a safe room that will include a new addition of five middle school classrooms. The addition will be reinforced with 16-inch concrete walls around its perimeter to allow it to withstand sustained winds of 260 miles an hour. It is located at the southeast corner of the secondary building.

Grundy Center Superintendent Cassi Murra said construction is expected to start on the addition this fall.

“We needed some additional middle school classrooms and thought we could make a tornado safe room at the same time,” Murra said. “It was a win-win.”

It’s also a win on the funding side locally as FEMA is taking up 85 percent of the more than $1 million bill for the addition with 15 percent paid by local property taxes.

The shelter will allow for up to 483 people to be safe should a tornado strike, which Murra said she hopes never happens.

The shelter will also be located next to the track and football field, so people will have a safe place to go should a storm hit during a school athletic event.

Bids for the project are due by Sept. 4. Murra said they expect the new addition to be ready for students coming back to school in August 2014.

Murra said they were able to secure the FEMA funds through an application last year and will be one of several schools in the state adding these types of rooms. Aside from the thick concrete walls on the perimeter, there are also steel cases that can be placed over the windows of the new addition in the event of a storm.

The shelter would allow for safety of the secondary students and staff, which includes the middle and high school.

“It’s very exciting,” Murra said. “Especially since we need the building space anyway.”

The elementary school is two blocks away and Murra said the community is already showing support for adding a safe room at that school as well, with or without FEMA funds.