A new building in northeast Iowa will include a school-based saferoom. A groundbreaking ceremony was held this afternoon for a new school in the Waverly-Shell Rock School District that will serve students in grades 5 through 8.
Superintendent Jere Vyverberg says the saferoom will be designed to hold 1,350 students and staff during a tornado or high-wind event. “Obviously, we hope we never have to use it, but having it available certainly adds some comfort – especially with the things that have gone on in Parkersburg so close to us,” Vyverberg said. An EF5 tornado leveled the town of Parkersburg, including a high school building, in May 2008.
Vyverberg says the saferoom is designed to withstand forces even greater than an EF5 tornado. “These are designed to withstand a flying missile of 250 miles per hour,” Vyverberg said. The new middle school will replace the district’s Junior High and Irving Elementary schools which were both damaged by flooding in 2008.
The current junior high building is 80 years and was due for some major repairs, while the elementary building was damaged beyond repair. The new $22 million middle school will be ready for use in August 2011. Vyverberg says the saferoom will double as an auditorium and music classroom that’s isolated from the rest of the building.
“You won’t know that it’s a saferoom once it’s completed,” Vyverberg said. “But, it has to have concrete reinforced walls and ceiling obviously.” Around $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Rebuild Iowa Fund will help pay for the school and saferoom.
Nevada received the first federal grant in the state to build a saferoom at a school.
(Note this story was updated 12/3/09 to include information on Nevada saferoom)