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Monett School Board discusses safety, facility improvements

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Monett R-1 Board of Education members discussed adjustments in school facilities to improve safety during their December meeting.

In the shadow of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012, Monett Superintendent Brad Hanson discussed steps taken by the district with its buildings in recent years. Changes at Monett Elementary School in particular limited the number of exterior doors and access points to students,

Board members talked about each campus, identifying where the district has done well and where concerns remain. Several locations have significant traffic flow of students, such as across Ninth Street at Monett Middle School and between the high school and the Scott Regional Technology Center.

Hanson met with city law enforcement and emergency management representatives prior to the board meeting to focus on communication between the school and emergency responders.

"The big thing I see is a way to get police, fire and emergency management people involved in our monthly drills," Hanson told The Times. "My goal will be to once a month have a city group involved in a drill."

Board members asked if automatic alarms are in place to alert police in case of a problem. Hanson said the district has paid for a "panic button"-quality service for some time. Including the alarms in the regular drills would check them and provide a test for response times.

"The board had good questions," Hanson said. "In our upcoming five-year capital plan, we'll want to look at entryways, where we can make our entrances aesthetically pleasing but where they funnel visitors to the office, and the rest of the building is not accessible."

The district's architect, Sapp Design Associates, will be asked to look at the various campuses with an eye toward making buildings safer over the next three to five years, Hanson said.

With school safety a hot public topic, Hanson told board members state legislators will be talking about conceal-and-carry laws and placing armed guards at schools. He expected school leaders would continue to hear from patrons. He planned to keep school safety as a regular discussion topic at board meetings for the next five months.

"The administrative team talks about safety every month," Hanson said. "We're quite aware of the issue as we conduct drills. We'll look at the practices we have and look at how it affects every one of our students."

Storm shelters

Pam Haldiman, architect with Sapp Design Associates, was present for the meeting to show sketches on the storm shelters planned for the middle and intermediate campus and at the high school.

Board members asked Haldiman to look at options for other uses of the middle and intermediate school shelter beyond the safe room funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They liked the idea of moving the cafeteria into the safe room and converting the present cafeteria into classrooms.

At the present time, Hanson said art and music classes for the intermediate school are held in the metal building on the southwest corner of the football practice field, requiring students to move outdoors in varying weather. Middle school art classes are held in the E.E. Camp gymnasium, under the south side bleachers. Both could be moved to the current cafeteria and kitchen area, which could become three classrooms.

With this in mind, Haldiman suggested building a hallway from the caefteria building to the shelter, which will sit between the cafeteria and the E.E, Camp gym. The board directed Haldiman to discuss her ideas with the teachers who would be affected and bring back more renderings for discussion.

Band room changes

At the high school, Haldiman had surveyors look at water drainage issues around the northeast corner of the campus, where the FEMA safe room/performing arts center will go. Looking at two options, board members preferred to keep channels covered with vegetation, rather than build a rock channel, to route storm water to the big pond in front of the school, near the east driveway.

Conversations with drama and music teachers provided more guidance for the performing arts center plans. The project provides an opportunity to address crowding in the band room at the same time.

Hanson said the board opted to move the safe room five to 10 feet to the east. The change will allow storage and practice areas in the band room to move, giving more space. The existing bathrooms will be relocated into the corridor between the band room and the performing arts center.

Haldiman planned to refine her drawings for the January 24 board meeting. Another meeting with the community advisory panel for the performing arts center will also be held later this month.

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