New storm shelters coming for four Springfield schools, funded by surplus bond issue money

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 6:49 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 8, 2021 at 6:55 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - With $15 million left over from the April 2019 bond issue, the Springfield Public School district has decided to go ahead and add new storm shelter/gyms to four elementary schools. The shelters are expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

Horace Mann, Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Eugene Field elementary schools will be getting the storm shelters, which are currently found in only nine of the 53 schools in the district.

“It’s been more than a wish. It’s really been a need,” said Janell Bagwell, the current principal at Field elementary and former principal at Twain.

How much of a need? Well, at Field elementary for instance, the 410 students can’t be placed in the hallways when severe weather strikes because there’s glass in the doors and windows that line the ceiling.

“So our designated areas are our bathrooms that we basically cram as many people as we can into one space ,” Bagwell explained.

The new gyms will also provide some much needed space for other activities.

“This is our ‘cafagymatorium’,” Bagwell said with a smile as she pointed to a part of the school that has a stage area facing a large floor space that includes basketball goals and long folded tables against the walls. “We use it for P.E., breakfast, lunch, any assemblies. But actually it’s not really big enough to hold our entire student body. It’s really, really tight.”

“It really makes a huge difference for our buildings when we have to plan around curriculum,” added Stephen Hall, the SPS Chief Communications Officer. “In addition to expanding the space for programs and activities we’re also pleased to be able to offer that storm shelter space for the community so in the event there is a storm, that will help keep our staff and students safe but it’s also a space that the community can be safe.”

The surplus money from the bond issue will also be used to build a new York elementary school and complete the renovation of Hillcrest High School, which was originally scheduled to be done in separate phases.

There was consideration given to starting the overhaul of Pipkin Middle School but the leftover money wouldn’t have covered the cost and students there won’t have anyplace to move to until the new Jarrett school is finished in 2022. That will allow Pipkin students to be temporarily housed in the old Jarrett building.

Of the many building projects to come out of the April 2019 bond issue approval, Hall said one of the most important involved child safety.

“It’s allowed us to add another 30 security entrances to the facilities that did not currently have them,” he pointed out. “And that completes secure entrances at all SPS facilities.”

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