The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 26, 2013

Avilla plans public meeting on safe room at school

By Susan Redden

AVILLA, Mo. — A proposed financing plan for building a tornado safe room at Avilla Elementary School will be the subject of a public meeting at 7 p.m. today in the school’s special-education classroom.

Plans call for the structure primarily to be used as a cafeteria and a practice gymnasium, but double as a safe room when necessary. The project also is to include construction of a new kitchen and a hallway to link the new structure to the current school building.

“It will be a multipurpose area,” said Brad Byers, school superintendent. “Right now, our cafeteria is our gymnasium.”

He said the purpose of the public meeting is to inform residents about the plan and potential financing.

The school district is proposing a capital projects lease-purchase financing plan through the Missouri Association of Rural Education, combined with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to construct and equip the building addition.

Officials estimate project costs at $1 million. Of that total, the safe room is to cost about $730,000, with $600,000 to come from FEMA.

“We’re looking at about $400,000 for everything else, and we’re working with everyone to find ways to hold down project costs,” Byers said. “And, we’re looking at financing options that don’t include a tax increase.”

In addition to giving students a safe place to go in the event of a storm, the safe room also will serve as a community shelter.

“There will be a plan in place for it to be open to patrons, so people of the community can benefit as well as the kids,” Byers said.

The district has 176 students in kindergarten through the eighth grade.

New superintendent

BRAD BYERS officially begins work Monday as the new superintendent in Avilla. He is a Miller native, and he graduated from Missouri Southern State University and from Pittsburg State University. He holds a master’s degree in educational leadership. He previously was with the Republic School District, and he taught math and science in Avilla from 2002 to 2007.