A FEMA shelter planned for the Neosho High School could potentially add some extra classroom space for the overcrowded building, according to the project architects.
Eric McCune and Kristi Beathe, of Sapp Design and Associates, spoke to school board members, administrators and faculty at a district work session Wednesday afternoon regarding the future of the planned FEMA shelter.
When the district first applied for the FEMA funding to build the shelter, plans had been drawn for a 13,775 square foot facility, to be located near the football field, across Hill Street.
However, as the district has continued to experience overcrowding issues at the high school, board members have revisited the location of the shelter.
“When we put the FEMA application in, FEMA asked for a primary location and an alternate location…right in front of the school, in the parking lot, was identified as the alternate from location,” McCune said. “Looking at it attached to the high school building itself makes no difference to FEMA.”
McCune said much of the high school is in a floodplain, and to meet FEMA requirements the shelter must be constructed outside of that area. However, he said nearly anywhere along the parking lot area, near the front of the high school building, would be out of the plain.
The architects noted that, due to FEMA requirements, many school districts utilize FEMA shelters as cafeterias, performing arts centers or gymnasiums, due to the large, open space.
“When you build a structure such as a gym, or a cafeteria or an open space, you’re maximizing your dollars,” McCune said.
McCune said if the facility were to be used as something other than a large, open space, FEMA would require that the facility be 35 percent larger, to accommodate for the additional items, such as tables and chairs, that would be placed inside the building.
However, the architects said using the space for classrooms is not out of the question.
Beathe said the district could potentially fit up to 10 classrooms into the shelter.
Per FEMA requirements, some square footage must also be reserved for restrooms.
Tim Crawley, district director of operations, said he expects the district to get formal approval for the grant in January. Once that approval is given, the clock starts, giving the district six months to submit final designs, and 18 months to construct the facility.
Crawley said the base cost to the district is $700,000 though that is only for construction of the shelter as originally drawn, and does not include any additional items such as paint or interior projects.
Wednesday’s work session was only informational, and board members did not take any action toward determining what purpose the FEMA shelter would serve. Though, superintendent Alma Stipp said the discussion again showed the need for a long-range plan for the school district.
Page 2 of 2 - “I think this brings us back to the importance of a long-range plan,” Stipp said. “I think the prioritizing has to come really quickly.”
The board is currently pursuing the creation of an updated master plan, having voted at their Sept. 17 board meeting to request bid proposals for the service.