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Hays Middle School addition finished

7/24/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Construction is complete on the Hays Middle School addition.

Sixth-graders will make themselves at home in the new classrooms when school starts next month.

Their lockers and core academic classes -- language arts, math, science -- will be in the eight classroom addition on the southeast corner, HMS Principal Craig Pallister said.

The spacious classrooms are comparable in size to those added to the northwest corner of the building, and are equipped with projectors and wireless access, he said.

The addition was paid for in part by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Cost of the project was estimated at $2.7 million, with USD 489 paying approximately $1.4 million.

Terry Ault of Architectural Solutions who served as the district's architect, said the project came in under budget for the district.

The district's share, earlier estimated at $138,000 annually through fiscal year 2028, will come from the capital outlay fund.

Built to FEMA specifications, the addition will serve as a storm shelter for students and staff.

Ault said he's "happy with the way it connects with the existing building."

The hallway connecting the old with new isn't part of the storm shelter. A skylight makes makes it a bright space that can be used as a general meeting area for classes, Pallister said.

Each sixth-grade student will be assigned two of the half lockers installed along the halls of the storm shelter.

Pallister said to help with organization, he's recommending students "keep your personal stuff in the top locker and jacket and books in the bottom."

Metal doors close the shelter off from the rest of the building.

A new emergency plan has been developed, directing those in the building to the shelter during an emergency.

Each window in the shelter has a metal shutter.

"When we go into a tornado watch -- the National Weather Bureau saying we could have storms -- we'll have the teachers go ahead and shut those because that is part of the system that is part of the safe room because these are heavy heavy steel doors that shut over the windows. We don't want to shut them at the last minute when the sirens go off."

Classroom lights come on automatically when someone steps in, and cabinets in each room provide storage for school supplies and emergency items, such as first-aid kits.

Rather than having individual student sinks, the science classrooms have one sink the teacher can use for demonstrations. They also have additional storage for chemicals and other items.

The "two inside rooms open up to each other, so you can move kids between rooms," Pallister said.

Decor choices such as colors, floor covering and restroom tile are the same as the northwest addition completed in 2012.

The storm shelter has its own air system.

"If the electricity goes off (we) still have water, still have air circulating," Pallister said.

The utility room with controls for the systems including the geo-thermal wells is accessible through the boys restroom.

"This is kind of the brains of the whole thing," Pallister said of the utility room.

One of the biggest challenges was determining how to use the space, he said.

Most staff and students would have liked to be in the new space, but "we needed to put our sixth grade into one area."

Moving the sixth grade into the new space frees up space in other parts of building, so a wall in the northwest addition was removed combining two classrooms and making a larger music room.

Building a storm shelter to FEMA standards is more challenging, but construction went smoothly, Pallister said.

FEMA required more documentation, testing and checks than other building projects, Ault said.

"It was a fun project. The school district is nice to work with."

"The biggest thing is just getting the first tornado shelter in the district," Pallister said.