MT. VERNON – Mt. Vernon Township High School has applied for a $3 million federal grant to make much of the new school resistant to high winds.
And while the district will not be awarded the grant for the current year, it is still possible the funding will be received in the next few years.
Even without the grant, however, school officials are hoping to modify the new school's design to make portions of the campus wind resistant “up to a point,” said Superintendent Michael Smith. This would make the school safer in the event of a tornado or severe storm.
“We're trying to see how much we can or cannot do under current budget restrictions,” Smith said. “It's possible we could (get the grant). But if it doesn't happen in a year and a half, it would be more difficult to implement.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency grant would allow for a large portion of the new school to be resistant to strong winds of 150 miles per hour or more over a certain duration of time.
Without the grant, officials say they could possibly make certain areas of the new campus resistant to winds between 100 and 130 miles per hour for short periods.
This would be achieved with a design that includes fewer windows, load-bearing walls in some areas, wall and roof bracing and other features.
“We're just looking at what the FEMA standards are,” Smith said. “For certain areas of the school, we feel we can beef those up (and) make those wind resistant up to a point.”
Currently, structural engineers are examining the design for the $72.8 million new school to look for ways to improve safety.
The campus will include a series of interconnected buildings. It has been designed to equip 1,500 students in 900 square foot classrooms.
The goal will be to have certain designated areas that could serve as shelters during severe weather. Often, after a tornado or other disaster, a community's school becomes a temporary safe haven for local residents, said architect Greg Brown of FGM Architects.
“We're studying it right now along with how you handle intruders,” Brown said. “It's a work in progress.”
The new school project is now in the construction documents phase. Bidding is still set for October.