WSR School District receives FEMA grant for Safe Room - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

WSR School District receives FEMA grant for Safe Room

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Waverly Shell Rock teachers spent Thursday afternoon preparing the Middle School auditorium for a choral concert. It's also used for orchestra, band, and class presentations. Not to mention -- tornados, or even missile attacks.

"Anything that would happen that we'd need to be protected from -- the elements or other things, this is the place we'd go!" said vocal music teacher Charissa Lambert.

A federal grant covered the bulk of the cost for a Safe Room in the new Middle School. This week, Superintendent Jere Vyverberg received FEMA approval to build one at the High School. The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.8 million, of which WSR is required to cover $400,000. Vyverberg believes the benefit of having a Safe Room at the high school in an emergency is absolutely worth the cost of construction.

"Even though they're close, you can't use one for the other school. They're just not close enough," Vyverberg said.

Some schools may have rooms that are safe, but to be a FEMA designated safe room you have to meet a variety of criteria. For example, the walls around the Middle School auditorium are sixteen inches thick, and for every person you plan to house case of an emergency, you're required to have five square feet of space. In the auditorium, they can fit up to 950 people.

The high school Safe Room is only in its beginning stages -- the district plans to choose a design firm in the next few weeks. But Vyverberg already has plans in mind. He'd like to see the structure double as science classrooms.

"I do feel very fortunate that we can do this. I also feel very, very grateful for the people who have helped us along the way," he said.

The addition at the high school will make Waverly the only Iowa community with two federally funded safe rooms. For that -- Vyverberg credits their rebuilding efforts following the 2008 flood.

"Taking that knowledge that we gained and saying -- okay, this is available to you. We've just been able to tap into those resources... thankfully," he said.

The hope is to only need the space for concerts or classrooms, and yet to know it can serve as so much more.

"Waverly and our surrounding communities have been through a lot in the last few years. I think they recognize anything you can do to mitigate any kind of disaster is a good thing. And they support us in that," said Vyverberg.

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