Plans to build two saferoom shelters at Prague Schools continue to move forward. The citizens of Prague overwhelming passed a bond issue in 2016 for an Early Childhood Center and a Middle School Student Center, both of which will include FEMA approved saferooms. The main saferoom will be located just South of the existing elementary and will contain grades k-4 through 1st grade. One entire wing will be a dedicated saferoom and will hold the entire elementary k4-5th grade, high school, headstart, staff and community members during a storm, housing approximately 1800 people. The middle school student center will hold the entire middle school and staff for a total of 256 people.
The district has been working on the FEMA application since they were notified that the school would receive approximately $2 million federal dollars to build the shelters. The process is a very lengthy procedure which requires numerous amounts of information including: Community statistics, mitigation plans, architectural drawings, cost analysis, environmental control analysis and historical preservation documentation just to name a few.
At present time all documentation and cost analysis has been approved by Oklahoma City Emergency Management and sent to FEMA Region 6 in Texas. Region 6 has verified that the application has passed the financial and technical review and now only has to pass the EHP (Environmental and Historic Preservation). FEMA projects require consultation with federally recognized tribes that may have interests in the project areas. Tribal consultation letters must be written by qualified FEMA historic preservation staff. Most of those staff were deployed to support Hurricane Harvey delaying FEMA’s historic preservation tribal review. However, Region 6 has communicated to Oklahoma City Emergency Management that Prague’s letter has been sent to the tribe in our jurisdiction. Once the letters are received by the tribes, they have a 30 day comment period. EHP will clear the project once that 30 day window is up, barring any concerns are raised during the tribal review.
Once tribal review is complete all FEMA Projects that are over one million dollars will go through a final stage called the Large Project Notification (LPN) process. This normally takes an additional two weeks. Project 27, which is the Early Childhood Center will go through the LPN process because the saferoom project is over the one million dollar threshold. After EHP has cleared the project and given HMA the Record of Environmental Consideration (REC), the HMA specialist will then go into NEMIS (National Emergency Management Information System) and allocate the funds which takes half a day to a day. A FEMA specialist will then obligate the funds which takes a few hours. At this point the money is earmarked to the school for the project and an award letter is sent to the District allowing construction to begin. Districts are not able to begin construction until this final phase is completed by FEMA.
Though the process has been slow and cumbersome, we feel that we have made great progress and will be cleared for building in the next few months. The end product and being able to shelter all of our children without busing them, as well as sheltering many of our community members, will be well worth the long process. We are very excited for construction to begin and look forward to our students having a state of the art facility that we can all be proud of.