Storm shelter for Maize High School among proposed facility improvements

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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MAIZE, Kan. -- June Rempel loves working with kids.

"Early childhood education is my heart!" Rempel said.

The teacher and associate principal of the Maize Early Childhood Education Center says she'd do anything to protect her students.

She says if bad weather hits, she'll be able to do just that at her school.

"We feel very safe in this building because we have a storm shelter and we have drills and we've timed it so we know we can get a child safe in a very short amount of time," Rempel said. "I would want that for every building.

But right now in the Maize School District that isn't the case for every building.

The district's largest building, Maize High School, which houses 1,450 students and staff, does not have a FEMA storm shelter.

So, Rempel and others who serve on the facilities committee have recommended building a shelter there.

It's among a list of eight proposed facility improvements district wide that the committee has developed over the past several years. These are improvements the committee feels are important to complete in the next 3 to 5 years.

The proposals could lay the groundwork for an $80 million bond issue. It would be Maize's first bond issue since 2007.

Monday night, the facility committee will present the ideas to the Maize School Board for the first time. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Pray Woodman Elementary School in Maize. No action is expected to be taken.

"(Maize High School) is our largest and most populated building during the school day. So, we want to make sure in the event we have foul weather we can keep folks safe," Maize USD 266 Superintendent Doug Powers said.

In a survey conducted last year, 61 percent of potential voters say they'd be more likely to support a bond issue if the shelter project was included. No other single proposal garnered more than 49 percent.

Powers says the reason Maize High School doesn't have a storm shelter is that the school was built in 1997 before FEMA shelters were being utilized in schools.

He says the last bond issue did provide storm shelters for the elementary schools that did not have them at the time. That was before Powers became the superintendent so he says he's unsure of why Maize High School was not included.

The storm shelter proposal for Maize High School has likely gained momentum in the year following the Moore, Okla. tornado.

"We've got a couple different design ideas, one with a large shelter in the center and another with two smaller shelters on either end so that they are equidistant for folks to get to," Powers said.

Powers says surveys show the shelter and other proposals have a lot of support. But he says people are also a bit cautious. At the same time the district is considering these proposals, they are also reviewing how student building placement will be done in the future.

"How we place kids determines how we use our facilities and how we use our facilities determines how we place our kids," Powers said. "So it's kind of a chicken and egg situation."

While there is some uncertainty for the district, Rempel says the committee is sure the storm shelter is among its most important proposals.

"It's an absolute must," Rempel said. "It's something our community needs and our school kids need to be guaranteed a safe place to go to school."

Other proposals for facility improvements include:

- Building a third middle school ($32 million)
- Renovations to Maize Middle School to address increased enrollment ($9 million)
- Building an aquatic center with stadium seating that could serve as a venue for championship events ($10 million)
- Additional sports amenities and improvements ($10.7 million)
- A new early childhood education center ($6.5 million)
- An improved transportation center ($8 million)
- A career and professional center ($8.5 million)

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