By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
New Muskogee Public Schools buildings could have safe rooms to protect students from tornados.
Architect Mike Martin said safe rooms will be included as bid alternates for new school buildings funded by a $47.5 million bond issue voters approved last May. Martin, who is working with MPS on bond issue projects, said the new buildings are:
• Science and math classroom and lab building at Alice Robertson Junior High.
• Vocational/agricultural building at Muskogee High School.
• Athletic training and locker facility at MHS.
• Building for the MPS Regimented School at Rougher Alternative Academy.
Safe rooms were not part of the May 14 bond election.
On May 20, less than one week after the election, massive tornadoes destroyed two Moore elementary schools and killed seven third-graders.
“With the Moore tornadoes, we discussed it again,” Martin said, referring to the possibility of building safe rooms.
MPS Facilities and Maintenance Director Wayne Johnson said the district is preparing specifications for the building bids and will include the safe rooms as alternates.
“An alternate is a choice we can do if funding is available,” Johnson said, adding that the district will advertise for bids in mid-September and open the sealed bids 20 days after they’re advertised.
He said safe rooms could add about $50,000 to $100,000 to a building’s cost.
Johnson said the vocational building would be a metal frame building with block exterior. A classroom inside the building could be made into a safe room. A classroom inside the AR math and science building could be a safe room. Dressing rooms in the athletic building could be safe rooms, he said. The Regimented School Building could be built to meet standards set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Johnson said bids for a concession building at MHS softball/baseball fields also could have a bid alternate for a safe room.
Tony Goetz Elementary is the district’s only school with a safe room. It was built in 2010 and is used as a computer lab, said Tony Goetz Principal David Shouse.
“We’ve used it for tornado drills, and we all fit,” Shouse said, adding that the school currently has 404 students.
Johnson said the Tony Goetz safe room was built to hold 450 people. The safe room was paid for by a FEMA grant which funded 75 percent of the project.
“We got a quarter-million dollar facility for $75,000,” Johnson said.
However, obtaining the federal grant is a cumbersome process, he said.
“I wrote the grant through FEMA, and it was a two and a half year process,” he said. “As more FEMA money becomes available, we will look at applying for some of the grants.”
Plans for a safe room at MHS were shelved because the district did not have enough matching funds, Martin said.
If the safe rooms in the new buildings are approved, they would be built according to FEMA’s community safe room guidelines, Johnson said.
Muskogee’s bond package also includes a new building near the district’s maintenance facility for computer system servers. Johnson said it is designed to be tornado-proof and is climate controlled. It could be a safe room for people working in that building, he said.
Only new buildings will get the safe room alternates, Johnson said. The alternates are not intended to be part of renovations at other school sites, he said.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.