Good Morning Neosho! I hope that everyone has had some opportunities to enjoy the many colors and overall beauty of fall in the Ozarks and our town.

I am happy to report that the recent shutdown of many branches of the federal government does not appear to have delayed the review process for our current FEMA projects that are planned for the high school and South and Carver Elementary Schools. After hearing this I thought it would be a great opportunity to update the community as to where we are in the process and to share some exciting news.

We currently have been approved to submit plans for three FEMA safe-rooms for the above mentioned locations in the district. Each of these building projects allow us to meet needs within the district for space, while also providing the community tornado shelters at a greatly reduced cost due to a federal grant to cover up to 75 percent of the total project. These shelters can also have, if designed appropriately, other daily uses that benefit the community and the schools.

The facility at Carver Elementary will serve as additional classroom space for that facility as the district continues to see student population growth, especially at the elementary level. This will allow the students and teachers at Carver to have much needed room for classes as well as a community storm shelter during weather emergencies.

South Elementary will also be getting a shelter that will serve as a gym and auditorium combination. Currently they use the cafeteria for indoor recess activities and programs in the evening. Research shows that many of the residences in that area could also benefit from a tornado shelter in the event of an emergency. This is a great way to meet that community need as well.

The largest population on one campus is at the high school facility at 511 Neosho Boulevard which currently houses grades 8-12 and approximately 1,700 students. Due to the large number of students and staff, the limited space to build, as well as the FEMA requirements, the district has planned for a shelter that would serve as 18 additional classrooms and be located on the front of the building. It is centrally located and has available parking for non-school hour weather concerns. This building will be two stories and the entire structure will be tornado rated to protect the students and also serve as learning space every day and allow us to remove many trailers from that location.

All of these projects have been planned with the use of district funds and federal grant money. We are currently waiting on the final approval from FEMA which we expect in the next few weeks and hope to begin the construction process early in 2014 and are projecting a 12-18 month construction period. These shelters are becoming common in neighboring districts and we feel that the forward thinking plans of these projects will serve the community well for many years to come.

I am also excited to share that FEMA has recently notified our district of opportunities for additional grants that are now available for us to apply for. We will plan to apply and, if the program is similar, we will be able to plan for more shelters in the future.

Tim Crawley is assistant superintendent of business and finance for the Neosho R-5 School District.