Ozark School District officials are hopeful proposed expansion on the high school campus would help meet the growing need for space for a wide range of physical activities.
A $19 million no tax increase bond that will appear on the April 5 ballot will call for storm shelters to be built at the high school, middle school and Tiger Paw Early Childhood Center, allowing the district to have storm shelters at each of its schools.
The storm shelter at the high school is being proposed as a two-level building that would also include a gymnasium on one level and a multi-use room on the other level.
The building would be constructed along the northeast edge of the high school.
“We've got great facilities here and we're trying to make things better for our kids and community,” Activities Director Yancey Little said. “We're fortunate with the facilities we have. But we have more programs we’ve added. You come here and you will see kids walking into the building at 5:15 in the morning because of practices and you will see kids walking out at 9:45 at night. We only have so much space and so many groups that we have to stagger our practices. This would give us more space to serve more kids.”
With ninth-grade classes being moved from the middle school to the high school next school year, the high school building will hold more than 1,700 students. School officials have stated the two existing gymnasiums will not be able to accommodate added physical educations classes.
“Our gyms are at capacity,” Little said. “There is no space. Kids are on top of each other. We only can have weights for our sophomores through seniors during the day and our freshmen would have to come in during the morning (prior to school).”
There have been discussions that the multi-use room could include a synthetic turf surface.
“We don't know what type of floor will be there, but it would be something everyone can use,” Little said. “(A weight room) was included in some preliminary thoughts. Who knows, it's a blank slate. If this bond passes, we will get input from our coaches and patrons to see what exactly is needed, what we can get and most importantly, what we can afford.”
Multi-use facilities similar to what Ozark is proposing are already in place at COC member schools Carthage, Neosho and Carl Junction.
Little added the new building would also be available to Ozark youth groups. That is already the case for the school’s gymnasiums and playing fields.
“We open our facilities for our community,” Little said. “They are constantly in use by groups and youth teams. That's what we want and I don't see anything different with this. It keeps them from having to go elsewhere.”
The storm shelter at the middle school would also include classrooms and the storm shelter at Tiger Paw would also serve as a cafeteria.
On the heels of Ozark’s K-12 enrollment growing by 230 students this school year, school officials collected feedback from the community during a series of Long Range Planning Committee meetings last fall.
“We've had meetings with our community over the past six months and we've gotten input on what they feel is important for kids,” Little said. “We've got a community that supports its schools.
“You think of Ozark and how much it has grown. We've got a lot of good people here and a lot of good people coming in,” he added. “This is something everyone could use for a lot of years. I'm excited for our community to get the chance to have something like this.”