OAK GROVE, Mo. -- A local school district is investing millions of dollars in a new addition. The building will serve as a performing arts center that doubles as a storm shelter, giving thousands of people a place to go if a tornado hits.
The construction is the first of its kind in the area. FOX 4 was given a grand tour of a soon-to-be state-of-the-art performing arts center and a storm shelter.
“It will withstand 250 mile-per-hour wind, 16-inch thick walls,” Oak Grove School District representative Randy McClain said.
McClain is a staple in the community and has 34 years of experience on the job. This is his biggest and most expensive project to date.
“This is something we’ve needed forever, but could never afford. You have to take care of classroom space first,” he said.
McClain credits the district's superintendent, Freddie Doherty, with making this project happen. The facility will cost nearly $5 million and will be partially paid for with a FEMA grant.
“The main purpose, obviously, is for protection, but at the same time our district was in need of a performing arts center. We came up with the idea to combine them both and came up with the idea for this facility,” Doherty said.
For buildings on campus, the shelter is centrally located and attached to the high school. More than 2,000 people can get to safety in five minutes or less. Doherty believes it's millions of dollars well spent.
“We account for faculty, staff, visitors. We want to have enough room that everybody will have a place to go,” he said.
Everybody, even when school's out. For McClain, his biggest project is also his last. It's no secret that he's retiring when the curtain goes up.
“It was tough walking away from the principalship. That was tough. This will be tough because it`s over, over. I`m not sure what I`ll do after that. There will be some tears I’m sure that last day when I`m packing up my office for good.' 13:05
The performing arts center and storm shelter will open this summer. The district is still working out a procedure for the public to use the space when school's out.