GRUNDY CENTER - Grundy Center special education teacher Ellen Stoner can remember teaching during a tornado warning with parents scrambling to try to pick up their kids.
Those days are over at the secondary school at Grundy Center, which serves grades 5-12.
The school opened its new tornado safe school addition as school returned to session last week.
Fifth-grade students take part in a science project in a classroom in the new tornado safe room. (Times-Republican photo by Andrew Potter)
The addition, with several classrooms inside, features 16-inch concrete perimeter walls with the ability to withstand winds of 260 mph.
"It's a great thing for the school and can give parents peace of mind during bad weather," Stoner said.
Grundy Center received a highly-selective grant from FEMA that led to the project, which also gave the school needed classroom space.
FEMA grant funds paid for $800,000 of the $1.17 million project, built by Cardinal Construction of Waterloo.
"We were at the right place and the right time," said Jerry Schutz, interim superintendent at Grundy Center. Schutz who gave credit to the former superintendent, Cassi Murra, for landing the grant. He said there are approximately 40 tornado safe rooms similar to this one at schools throughout Iowa.
The room fits nearly 500 people as a storm shelter with a location at the southeast corner of the secondary building.
"It's very nice to know there's a place to put our kids to keep them safe during a storm," Schutz said. "Everything is all concrete block and steel reinforced."
Schutz said they are still working on some minor things as the room gets completed, such as signage.
"There will be signage throughout the whole building directing them to here," Schutz said.
It's possible the public would need to have access to the building, such as if inclement weather hits during a football game or other sporting event at the track. The tornado-safe room addition is just steps from the football field to keep fans and athletes safe.
Classes go on as normal in the new addition as on a recent day there was a fifth-grade science class checking out worms as a project in one of the classrooms.
"It's really nice," said fifth grader Parker Ticknor, 10, of the new addition.