VERSAILLES, Mo. - The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently approved a $1.8 million grant for the Morgan County R-2 School District to build a storm shelter on its main campus in Versailles.
The final FEMA approval is a big step in a process that began in March 2012 and has included the grant application, a timed tornado drill to ensure all students on the campus could relocate to the proposed shelter location within five minutes, and surveys to determine community opinions on what type of facility might be needed.
"This has provided a sense of hope that a safe structure will be available to ensure our children's security and will address a district-identified long-standing need for a performing arts center," said Superintendent Joyce Ryerson.
The Morgan County R-2 Board of Education voted unanimously at its Dec. 16 meeting to construct a performing arts center, using the FEMA grant paired with additional district funds, choosing the fine arts center over a second option of an updated elementary gymnasium.
The performing arts center is proposed to feature 600 to 700 theater seats, a full theatrical-level stage with fly space, rigging, sound system and lighting, acoustical treatments and flexible space to be used for both school district and community events.
To be eligible for the FEMA funding, the building will have to meet specific safety requirements, such as a certain amount of concrete, doors that can be completely sealed and the ability to withstand an EF4 tornado. The structure must be large enough to hold the entire campus population, which could be about 1,600 people including students, faculty, staff and visitors. Possible locations for the structure are in front of the high school or behind the main school building where buses currently load.
The project is estimated to cost roughly $4 million - $1,816,500 of which will come from FEMA funds and $605,000 of which the district has set aside as its contribution to the safe room portion of the project. An additional $2 million will be required to complete the project.
"An option the district is looking at is a possible levy increase to help offset the cost of the construction," Ryerson said. "There is no way to do additional building without additional revenue coming in."
The district's current tax levy rate is $2.75 per $100 of assessed valuation, one of the lowest in the state.
The school board and district administration will hold two town hall meetings to discuss the project and answer community questions.
The meetings will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 7 in the Versailles Middle School library and at 7 p.m. Jan. 8 in the South Elementary School library.
Topics addressed at the meetings will include the district's match to the FEMA grant and how the district can best use current and future revenue sources.
For further information about the project or town hall meetings, contact the Morgan County R-2 School District administration at 573-378-4231.