School board decides on high school safe rooms

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 11:30 a.m. CDT

A decision has been made.

At a special meeting held Nov. 26, Creston School Board made the decision to turn the safe rooms at Creston High School into classrooms.

"We have resources through FEMA to build either an open space gymnasium or four classrooms," said interim Superintendent Chuck Scott "... (Creston High School principal) Mr. Messerole said he could support either one. If it's classrooms, he could use two of them right now. If we go to classrooms, as a redesign in the neighborhood of an additional $100,000, that's the cost of doing business."

Heather Haxton discussed with the school board the options and basic plans of the safe rooms. Haxton is Project Coordinator with Laugerman Architects.


The money was awarded to Creston School District through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for the building of safe rooms at the high school. The total amount awarded was $1,095,108. Federal money accounts for 75 percent, which equals $821,638. The state of Iowa pays 10 percent, which equals $109,551. The final amount is 15 percent, equaling $163,919, which is paid through a local match and in-kind gifts. The funds will be paid as the project progresses.

The cost for the safe room is about $215 per square foot. The reason for the higher cost per square foot, comparable to $125 per square foot for a classroom not built to safe room speculations, is because the safe rooms are reinforced and must be able to withstand 250 mph winds.

The project is considered an alternate project from the original proposed gym because Iowa Homeland Security Emergency Mitigation Department has already awarded the funds to Creston and therefore cannot award the money elsewhere. FEMA has allowed the project scope change instead of having the money returned to federal.

"Conceptually I don't see how we can give up 85 percent participation by another governmental body to not just make the saferoom classrooms," said Board Member Ron Dunphy.

The basics

The potential date for starting on site work is March 1, 2013. The walls will be poured and set during the winter so they will be ready to use when work begins in the spring. The final date of work for the high school safe rooms is Jan. 1, 2014, allowing for the close out to be finished by March 1, 2014.

"The other part that is built into this ... are a lot of inspections," said Haxton. "... and that helps from two standpoints. It helps from your guys' stand point to make sure the building gets done correctly. You've got a third party coming in and going even from the floor flatness standpoint, did they actually make the floor straight, which is helping long-term and it's helping short-term. If it's screwed up, they have to redo it now instead of later. And it's also helping from the standpoint that if something is wrong it's going to be caught in that moment, not caught five steps down the road where you've got to backtrack so far."

The design will be for four classrooms, two 30 feet by 30 feet, and two 35 feet by 35 feet, built onto the 200 and 300 corridors on the west end of the school. Conduit will be set inside the walls for electricity.

"FEMA typically never ever allows you to A: move site, and B: move your project type, and they're saying, if that's what it takes to use this money, we will figure out how to make that scope change," said Haxton.

The timeline for the project consists of resigning the rooms in December and putting the redesign in to FEMA, putting it out for bid in January, and receiving bids in February. On site work is set for March 1.

The safe rooms will be separate from the main high school building by two feet, with vents in the gap to prevent mold and fungal growth. There will be windows with special closings, and fire exits on either side of the addition that will unlock only when a siren sounds.


Rich Flynn, Creston School Board member, made a point by asking to keep the safe rooms as a gym as it is in the original design and adding classrooms built without safe room specifications.

"I say we've already built the gym at the elementary-middle school. I know it's not attached to the high school but I say we already have that in the making," said Board Member Sharon Snodgrass.

Each classroom would require 65 percent clear space, after furniture is taken into account. There will also be bathrooms attached in order for the rooms to stand alone. There will be covered access from the main building of the school that leads into an eight-foot hallway.

"Are we going to be rushing into classrooms that are going to be...not designed or poorly designed for what we are going to need in the future, and do we need to go more classrooms?" said Flynn.

Flynn also said he was concerned with jumping in and making the change to classrooms from the gym with out doing a study as to what the school actually needs. He looked ahead at the classes still in elementary school where they are slightly bigger than the high school class sizes.

"I also feel like if we already need the classroom space and we can make it work, we may have to scramble a little to get it done here, but ... I think that our community is going to appreciate that," said Snodgrass.

Dunphy moved to use the safe room space as classrooms. Rick Fyock seconded the motion. Board Member Galen Zumbach was absent. Dunphy, Fyock and Snodgrass voted in favor, while Flynn voted against the motion.

Previous Page|1|2|Next Page

Reader Poll

What returning TV show are you most excited for this fall?
Empire (FOX)
Big Bang Theory (CBS)
The Voice (NBC)