Missouri News: $3.5 million in grants approved for three Missouri schools to provide protection against tornadoes

Federal Emergency Management Agency approves plans for schools in Christian, Lawrence and McDonald counties to shelter total of more than 2,250 students, staff, and residents during severe storms

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (STL.News) – The State Emergency Management Agency today announced that $3.5 million in grant funding has been approved to build tornado safe rooms in three Missouri school districts.  Competitive, federal Pre-Disaster Mitigation grants have been awarded and were accepted on Tuesday, March 5 by school districts in Christian, Lawrence and McDonald counties.  The completed safe rooms, which require a local contribution ranging from 10 to 25 percent, would shelter a total of more than 2,250 people.

“Across our state, we want our children to be as safe as possible in school, and that includes protection from dangerous, destructive severe weather,” Governor Mike Parson said.  “I’m glad to see Missouri school districts are taking action to protect children and improve facilities; these grant funds will make a difference in an area of our state that has seen more than its share of deadly storms.”

“This is Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Missouri, when we teach children and families the importance of knowing how to protect themselves from tornadoes and dangerous storms,” State Emergency Management Agency Director Ron Walker said.  “In Alabama on Sunday, an EF-4 tornado took the lives of 23 people and injured dozens of others. These safe room projects would help protect students, staff and residents from violent storms and have the additional benefit of providing new learning spaces that can be utilized throughout the school year.”

According to the approved safe room plans:

  • Christian County’s Sparta R-III School District would build a stand-alone safe room on its elementary/middle school campus capable of protecting 1,089 students, staff and residents.  It will also serve as an early childhood center.
  • Lawrence County’s Miller R-II School District would build a stand-alone safe room on its high school campus capable of protecting 519 students, staff and residents.  It will also serve as a band space.
  • McDonald County’s Goodman Elementary School, part of the Neosho School District, would build a stand-alone safe room capable of protecting 660 students, staff and residents.  It will also serve as a gymnasium.

The Goodman Elementary School campus took a direct hit by an EF-2 tornado on April 4, 2017.  School was not in session when the tornado hit at 6:48 p.m.  The school sustained extensive damage and was determined to be a total loss.

Community safe rooms are specially designed and engineered structures, built to withstand 250 mile per hour winds, often utilizing 14-inch precast concrete and steel-reinforced doors.  Walls and roof sections are capable of withstanding impacts from windborne debris that can act as missiles.

Missouri currently has 218 completed safe rooms across the state, 141 of which are in schools, utilizing Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation grant funds.  In all, the completed projects and those being designed and constructed in the state would be capable of protecting more than 232,000 Missourians.

The FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program provides 75 percent funding for approved safe room projects, which rises to 90 percent for communities meeting small size and low income levels. Local grant recipients pay the remaining share of the eligible expenses.  The Sparta R-III district must meet a 25 percent local match.  Miller R-II and the Neosho School District qualify for the 10 percent local match.

The federal share of the Sparta project is approximately $1.4 million. The federal share of the Neosho project is approximately $1.1 million, and the federal share for the Miller project is approximately $925,000.  The local applicants still must meet all federal program requirements.