Jasper students have started using their $2.5 million expansion that includes a FEMA-funded safe room, and the district is planning a FEMA-required public meeting to tell the general population of Jasper how the tornado safe room will be used.
Jasper Superintendent Rick Stark said the meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Jan. 16 at Jasper’s new safe room behind the high school end of the school complex.
“I have to have a public meeting where I explain to anyone that shows up the function of the safe room and when it’s open and those types of things,” Stark said. “I’ll try to keep that short, then answer any questions that anyone has. Once that’s done it will be like an open house where people can walk around and look at the building and see what they think.”
Jasper students started using the new safe room, which will serve in normal school operations as a cafeteria and multipurpose gymnasium, with basketball goals and scoreboards and a small set of bleachers.
Also completed was a new weight room and new locker rooms for physical education and after-school sporting events.
“We still need to install a scoreboard and other little things,” Stark said. “They finished the weight room floor so we’ve moved all the weights in there, and we’re starting to utilize that for the weight lifting classes. The locker room benches came in so we’ve got those and we’re using the locker rooms now. Now it’s just a matter of making sure we’ve got the little things like the clock in the weight room and making sure all the soap dispensers are installed, different little things like that.”
Students are cycling through the building between 11 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. for lunch in a room that is more than twice as big as their former cafeteria.
Blake said students, especially the young ones, were wide-eyed when they first saw the new room after the Christmas break.
Construction and school crews spent the Christmas break moving kitchen and lunchroom equipment over from the old cafeteria to make sure it was operational on Jan. 2, when students returned.
“The old cafeteria has been gutted out,” Stark said. “Everything has been pulled out of there, sinks, old equipment, anything that wasn’t going to go to the new kitchen we’ve basically either stored or already sold.”
Stark said crews have started converting the former cafeteria and kitchen space into classrooms.
He said the space will be turned into am elementary art room, elementary music room and two special education classrooms as well as special education office space.
Page 2 of 2 - He said he hopes that conversion will be done by the end of January, although that is a tentative conversion date.
Once that conversion is finished, those classes will be moved out of the temporary classroom trailers they’ve been house in for several years.
“Once we finish that we’re done with all the trailers except the one across the street,” Stark said. “I look forward to those being gone.”
Stark said the Jan. 16 meeting will include a briefing on exactly when the safe room will be opened in case of a tornado, and what it will include.
Stark said the building is rated to hold 1,615 people, more than 500 people more than the population within the city limits of Jasper.
“Any time we have a situation where you have a tornado watch, I have to be at the safe room making sure that supplies are present, everything is pretty much prepared as far as being able to house people,” Stark said. “As soon as there is a tornado warning in Jasper County, I have to have the safe room open. If it’s during the school day, the kids have to be in there first, then the community comes in. When it’s off school hours, basically it’s just open to whoever shows up.”
The safe room is equipped with an emergency generator, a weather radio and an AM/FM radio, cell phone, first aid kits and flashlights.
He said the district is responsible for signs to be placed around Jasper telling people where the safe room is located.