Architects Pam Haldiman and Bonnie Crawford, from Sapp Design Associates, spent most of the day on Jan. 17 in Monett discussing plans for the two safe rooms that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will help fund. They spoke to teachers and administrators to shape their proposals according to the needs of the school and the community.
Superintendent Brad Hanson had the architects attend a session with an advisory panel of community members to discuss the plan for Monett High School. The FEMA safe room will be combined to also serve as a performing arts center.
The design of the room has two aisles from the back to the front, dividing the seats in thirds. There are no outer aisles to increase the number of seats, she said.
Hanson said having comfortable seats would make the auditorium more attractive. Haldiman proposed 22-inch wide seats, four inches wider than the seats with backs in the Monett High School gym. The rows will be deeper as well, extending 36 inches from seat back to seat back.
Hanson said with a current population of 650 students at the high school, the auditorium would serve the student body well for events for the time being.
The biggest concern about the proposed building plan was that the bathrooms in the lobby were not large enough to comfortably accommodate the crowd. Several examples of undersized bathrooms in area auditoriums were cited. Hanson said they would look at ways to reconfigure the bathroom space to expand the number of stalls in both the men's and women's rooms.
City administrator Dennis Pyle viewed the plan with interest and asked about space for moving the Ozark Festival Orchestra from city hall to the school site.
"If we could eliminate the city hall auditorium," Pyle said, "the city has other ideas for that space."
Hanson observed in making the auditorium desirable would hinge on the quality of the acoustics. He said the school board wanted to commit to getting the best result out of its investment. Haldiman said Sapp works with an acoustical engineering firm from Kansas that will propose where and how to place acoustical tiles and barriers. Half shells, even for a band placed on the floor to accompany musicals, would be used.
Other questions focused on providing adequate storage, access to the stage and how the building attaches to the wing with the band and art rooms.
"When the dream to have a performing arts center advanced, it was to use capital reserves and FEMA money to pay for it," Hanson said. "It's quickly growing. Our original estimate was to try and keep both projects to where we spend $3 million to $.35 million of our own money. Now we're thinking it will probably going beyond that. We'll need contingency plans.
"Our goal is to do this right," Hanson continued. "We may have to build it over two and a half or three years. Or we may have to borrow or ask the patrons to extend our debt."
Haldiman planned to present revised drawings to the board of education this week. Drawings were yet to come showing the appearance of the entrance into the hall. Getting the proposal approved under Lawrence County's mitigation plan posed the biggest hurdle in the short term.
Hanson expected the committee would meet a few more times. Additional input could be shared with board members Marty Scabarozi and Ken Gaspar or Hanson.