The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 18, 2014

Webb City holds groundbreakings at two schools today

WEBB CITY, Mo. — Webb City residents gathered Tuesday to celebrate two groundbreakings for safe rooms that will serve three schools in the district.

A future safe room between Harry S. Truman Elementary School and Bess Truman Primary Center will have 6,000 square feet of floor space, allowing it to hold more than a thousand people in case of severe weather. A safe room with 5,000 square feet of space at Webster Primary Center will be able to hold about 700.

Students attended the groundbreakings, and several participated by shoveling dirt. The ceremonies marked the third and fourth of seven safe rooms that will be constructed in the district.

The shelters are part of a $20 million effort funded partially by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and partially by local taxpayers.

Superintendent Tony Rossetti said discussion regarding the safe rooms started in August 2010, but the 2011 Joplin tornado ramped up interest.

“We saw the devastation that can occur when a tornado comes through and hits a school building,” Rossetti said.

The day after the Joplin tornado, Webb City schools had classes. But parents were picking up students early, Rossetti said, because they were worried about their children’s safety.

“We knew at that point that we had to make some decisions about how we could become even safer,” he said.

Sarah Lee, principal at Webster Primary Center, said she is thankful that her school will have a safe room, and the groundbreaking ceremony was a chance to express her gratitude to the community.

“Having a large space for assemblies and all those things is wonderful,” she said during the ceremony. “But when I look out at all these precious little faces, having the comfort of knowing that I will have a place where you all can be safe in the midst of a storm gives me great comfort and peace.”

Kevin Crane, president of the Webb City School Board, said he hopes parents will feel comfortable dropping their children off at school knowing they’ll be safe in the event of a storm.

Rossetti described the future safe rooms to students and said the walls, floors and ceilings will be made of concrete.

“There’s nothing even 250 mph winds could do to that building,” he said. “Remember how you used to go in the hallway during a tornado drill and have to hunker down and cover up your head? You don’t have to do that anymore. You can go into that room, have an activity planned by your teachers, and you would never know what was going on outside.”

All safe rooms will be accessible to community members during the school day and will have automatic unlocking devices in place for after-hours use during severe weather.

“It will be a safe place if something like that ever happens,” Rossetti said. “We hope it doesn’t, but we’ll be prepared when it does.”

Seven safe rooms

FEMA IS PAYING A LARGE PORTION of the total cost, while the school district is responsible for the remainder. Voters last April approved a $9 million bond issue, Superintendent Tony Rossetti said, and $1.8 million will come from the district’s capital projects fund. The project initially called for the construction of six safe rooms districtwide; one for the Carterville school was approved by FEMA for the program after the election.

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