Just as the Jasper school district is finishing a tornado safe room for its students, the Avilla school district is starting its own project to add a similar safe room.
Avilla School Superintendent Scott Blake said the district received a $750,000 grant from FEMA to build a 1,500-square-foot safe room to serve the school and surrounding community in case of a tornado.
According to the terms of the grant, FEMA will provide $600,000 of the cost, while the district is responsible for the other $150,000.
A meeting to discuss plans for the grant is slated for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14 in the school’s library.
Blake said the safe room is a little smaller than the one just finished in Jasper, but it will provide many of the same things for a tiny school district that is strapped for space.
“The board is looking at using it as a cafeteria and adding a kitchen to it at this time,” Blake said. “But we want to get community input on this and see what they have to say. They may have some good ideas and we want to hear them.”
Blake said the Avilla Board of Education is looking for ways to leverage the safe room project to help ease the space crunch at the school.
“It will alleviate some of the sharing of rooms now that we have to do,” Blake said. “Space is one of our biggest issues right now. We have a couple of teachers who split rooms, so when one teacher is on her planning period, her room is always in use.”
He said currently the district’s cafeteria is also the gymnasium and is heavily used, especially during basketball season when four elementary teams are vying for practice and game time.
“If we do a raised-roof design, we can use it for a cafeteria and then use it in the evening for basketball practice,” Blake said. “We’re big into elementary basketball and we have four teams sharing one gymnasium. That means games or practices six or seven days a week.”
A new multi-purpose room that can be used as a cafeteria would mean the current cafeteria and gymnasium will be used exclusively as a gym for physical education classes. It might also mean the bleachers in the existing gym could be expanded, providing more seating space.
“We have limited bleacher space so things can get crowded quickly,” Blake said. “We can’t use the current gym for PE classes until lunch is over, which means sometimes, kids can only use half the gym for PE. That’s not a lot of space for kids to bounce around.”