Since Christmas 2016, the former Carthage Middle School on River Street has sat empty, waiting as plans were being developed to remodel the building into the new Carthage Junior High School.

Since Christmas 2016, the former Carthage Middle School on River Street has sat empty, waiting as plans were being developed to remodel the building into the new Carthage Junior High School.
The bid specifications are ready and Superintendent Mark Baker announced at Monday's regular Board of Education meeting that FEMA and the State Emergency Management Agency have signed off on the plans for the community safe room, a large, tornado-proof gymnasium that will be part of the project.
“We've been waiting for a long time to finally get approval from SEMA and FEMA and we finally have it,” Baker said. “The signatures are in place and we'll have a prebid meeting on Friday and we hope to have someone for you to approve at the March 18 board meeting.”
Baker said it's still the district's goal to finish the reconstruction by June 2019.

2014 bond issue
Remodeling the former Carthage Middle School to serve as a junior high housing seventh and eighth grade classes was the second part of the $18 million bond issue approved in 2014 by voters.
The election at the time allowed the district to extend its current debt service property tax levy, from 2026 when the bonds issued to build the current Carthage High School would have been paid off, to 2036.
About $12 million of the procedes from the bond issue were used to build the new Carthage Interemediate Center located at the corner of Fir Road and Chapel Road in southwest Carthage.
The fifth and sixth grade classes were moved from the Middle School at Centennial and River streets to the Intermediate Center over Christmas break in 2016-2017.
The remaining $6 million or so will be used to add classrooms, a second multi-purpose gymnasium and remodel the library and cafeteria at the former Middle School to allow it to return to its original 1950's purpose as Carthage Junior High School.

Safe room delay
In late 2016, the district got the chance to expand the proposed second gymnasium, and with a grant from FEMA, turn it into a community safe room similar to what other area school districts had built in the wake of the 2011 Joplin tornado.
Under saferoom grants, FEMA pays 75 percent of the cost to build concrete structures that will resist tornado winds of more than 200 miles per hours and shelter people who live within a certain distance of the structure.
The school district is allowed to use the structure for whatever it needs during the school day, but in return for the grant, the district has to make sure the structure is open to the public whenever a tornado threatens the area.
Making the changes needed to accomidate the FEMA requirements delaye
d the remodeling of the school for about a year.
Baker said on Monday the district was waiting for FEMA's final approval of the saferoom plans before putting the project out for bids.
“What we want to do is finish the project by the summer of 2019,” Baker said. “In the summer of 2019 we will move the seventh and eighth graders to the present Middle School/new Junior High.”

Big Move
After the seventh and eighth grade classes are moved, Baker said the district will take the 2019-2020 school year to remodel the current Junior High on Main Street and change it to a sixth-grade center.
When that's done, the district can complete what school officials have called the “Big Move.”
After the 2020 school year, the five elementary schools will house kindergarten through third grades; the Carthage Intermediate Center will house fourth and fifth grade classes, the historic school on Main Street will be a sixth-grade center, the new Junior High at River and Centennial will house seventh and eighth grade classes and grades nine-12 will remain unchanged at the Carthage High School.
It will be the biggest redistribution of classes since 2009 when the new High School was completed.
“It's kind of incredible to reflect back that we passed that bond issue in 2014 for the intermediate center and the remodel of the new Junior High,” Baker said. “By the time we finish the project it'll be five years. It's also hard to imagine that in 2009 is when we moved into the high school. Some people still say it's the new high school but the high school is nine years old. It's not really new anymore. At some point we'll need to review our options as to expanding that school.”