A visit by a Bishop Seabury Academy trustee to tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., has prompted the school to look into constructing a room built so soundly it could withstand a missile attack.
The school has received almost $400,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build a roughly 2,600-square-foot safe room attached to its gym. The safe room would hold locker rooms and dressing rooms and have a second-floor storage area above it, head of school Don Schawang said.
The addition would allow for the school to tear down old gym locker rooms to make space for more lunch room seating. The school also plans to double its parking lot.
The total project is expected to cost more than $1 million. Along with the FEMA money, Bishop Seabury is raising private funds to complete the project and has one private donor putting up a $350,000 challenge grant, Schawang said.
The hope is to have the parking lot done this summer and the shelter finished by late fall.
“Everyone is excited about it and it is something we want to do very quickly,” Schawang said.
Currently during tornado warnings, students take shelter in inner classrooms and hallways.
The idea for a safe room came from a trustee who visited Joplin with his older son as a first responder after last May’s tornado.
“What he found were meat lockers and safe rooms as the only things still standing,” Schawang said.
The safe room would be for the students and staff at the school in the event of a tornado. The school had looked into opening the safe room up to the surrounding neighborhood during a tornado warning, but FEMA had concerns about the amount of time people who are off campus would need to get there, Schawang said.