BY MELANIE BUCK –
The Acorn campus of Ouachita River School District may be getting a tornado shelter/safe room by next spring. School Superintendent Jerry Strasner said that FEMA has approved a grant that will pay for 75 percent of the project while the rest will have to come out of the school’s pocketbook. Bids on the project will open next week pending approval from the Ouachita River School Board to pay their portion of the cost.
Strasner said that school architect Craig Boone and Ashley Garris at Western Arkansas Planning wrote and submitted the grant and that the project could cost approximately $1 million.
“Craig and Ashley have done several safe rooms. Craig was Mena and Cossatot River’s architect and has done several in the area. That’s how we were able to get the grant,” explained Strasner. He continued, “I knew from previous history that they were able to seize funding for safe rooms. There was some money available in our area through emergency management so it made it possible for us to get the funding.”
During the day, when there are no storms in the area, the safe room will be utilized as an elementary p.e. room. It will also be available to the community in the afternoons and weekends. “If the tornado sirens go off, it will automatically open the doors on the safe room,” said Strasner, providing extra safety to the community during hours when the school is closed. The safe room will hold around 600 people, and will fit all students and employees of the Acorn campus.
“We’re continuing to try to provide a safe and caring environment to our kids so we’re really excited that we’ve been blessed with these funds to do something like this with,” Strasner said.