Columbus School District Storm Shelter Bond Issue

By Carla Pesono

Published 03/24 2014 06:28PM

Updated 03/24 2014 08:14PM

COLUMBUS, KS.--- With storm season on its way, some Columbus schools don't feel safe not having an adequate storm shelter. Students and staff don't feel completely safe if a severe storm were to come through. That's why school officials and parents hope the bond issue gets passed in May, so the district can be confident residents will be safe when severe weather hits. Columbus, Kansas has 3500 residents and not enough storm shelters for the whole community, and only has one shelter in four of its schools. Highland 2nd and 3rd Grade Elementary School Principal Amber Wheeler says she worries for the safety of all the students.

"We have procedures in place right now to keep them as safe as we possibly can," said Amber Wheeler, Highland Elementary Principal. 

The procedure being, piling 150 students plus staff in four very small bathrooms.

"Recent events shown us that that is not adequate for our students," said said David Carriger, Columbus Schools Superintendent. 

"Do we have parents that stress out about it? I know we do because we have had some people that asked me about it," said Wheeler. 

Highland Elementary isn't the only school without a shelter.

"Central campus is completely open so they have no storm shelter on sight either, neither does our high school. They do have some of the same kinds of procedures we do. They utilize restrooms, hall ways, interior door, interior spaces," said Wheeler. 

"We do have storm shelters at our lower elementary at Park, which takes care of all those students. We open those facilities also at night and the weekends for our community," said Carriger. 

Columbus School's Superintendent David Carriger says that's not enough.

"We need a place so that if we do have severe weather that does take place, we have a place that's safe for kids," said Carriger. 

"It's kind of scary, because the bathrooms are kind of small and we are really squished in there," said Myka Carden, Highland Student. 

"I feel it's not as safe. Not like any metal place or something really safe with safe walls," said Cade Saporito, Highland Student. 

This May is a chance for the district to resolve this problem, by the people voting on a $30 million bond issue that will give all the schools a storm shelter. The plan would be to replace both Highland and Central Elementary and make a whole new building where Central is located, that will hold grades 1st through 8th. The Pre-K through first grade school at Park and the high school will get remodeled.

"My biggest hope for the future is to, if we have a siren go off and we have a tornado come through, to know that the facility that we have put our kids in, is the safest we can possibly have for our kids," said Wheeler. 

If the $30 million bond does get passed. Carriger says construction would start late fall and they hope to have everything completed in 2 to 2 and a half years. For an average residential property in Columbus valued at 75,000 it would cost that homeowner almost $16 per month. 

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