Carthage Junior High renovations include community storm shelter

Junior high renovations and expansion complete

Katie Coen teaches 7 th grade science at Carthage Junior High, and says this year has gotten off to a great start.

“We’re all excited to be here every day,” says Coen. “My kids are excited to learn about science because they have labs and these separate spaces that are catered to them.”

A brand new full science wing is a big part of renovations and expansions at the junior high at the corner of River and Centennial.

“Here we have a lab space that we can use so we can actually rent out and the kids can go into a real science lab that’s separate from their class room. And then we have water in our classroom which is a big improvement,” explains Coen.

Construction on the multi-million dollar facility wrapped up before the start of the school year.

New additions in the junior high include a bigger cafeteria, a new media center, a S.T.E.M and vocational skills area, and updated computer labs.

It also features a brand new gym that doubles as the town’s first storm shelter that’s open to the whole community.

Carthage Superintendent Mark Baker says, “It is an unbelievable opportunity for our patrons, our community members.”

The shelter is rated to withstand an EF-5 tornado, and will hold more than two thousand people.

Meaning even if something happens when students and staff are at school, more than a thousand community members will also be able to use it.

Baker explains there are storm shelters at other schools in the district, but this is the first that a new shelter designed with the community in mind.

” We presently have five storm shelters, at each elementary school, the intermediate center and childhood center all have storm shelters for kids and staff, but they’re not rated for community members,” Baker says. “The biggest difference when you have a community shelter is the radius of which you have to have enough space for people. Think it’s within a 5 mile radius of the shelter… you have to have room for that many people if there’s a storm. So, it definitely costs more money.”

Baker explains that a more than 2.6 million dollar grant from FEMA is what made the storm shelter possible.

The shelter isn’t open for use by the community in an emergency yet because FEMA is still working to sign off on paperwork, but Baker expects that to happen any day now.

” It’s something that is needed, obviously we’re in tornado alley, and so things could pop up any time ,” Baker says. ” . So, this provides an extra layer of safety, not only for our students, but for the community.”

Extra safety that parents we talked to are happy to see.

Carthage resident Sarah Balster says, “It’s very awesome for this community. We live outside of town, but if we needed it, we could get here quickly.”

If you want to get an up close and personal look at all the changes at the junior high, there’s an open house scheduled for 7:30 pm on Thursday the 5 th .

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