Dora School invites local community to Saturday fish fry in new FEMA building

The Dora community is invited to a free fish fry from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, in Dora School’s new FEMA building, which is nearing completion on the school’s campus. The fish fry coincides with the school’s hosting of district basketball competitions Saturday. Times photo / Sue Ann Jones.

Dora School will host a free community fish fry from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, in the school’s new FEMA building, which is in the final stages of completion. 

Dora superintendent Steve Richards said the fish fry is being held in conjunction with the school’s hosting of the basketball district competitions Saturday. The fish fry is also being held to introduce the community to the new building, which serves as recreational or class space during the school day and also as a storm shelter for both the school and the nearby community, day or night. 

The FEMA building includes a half-size gym with adjustable basketball goals, a compact kitchen/concession-stand area, a storeroom and restrooms in a structure that can withstand 250-mile-per-hour winds. It was built in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provided 75 percent of the funds for the basic structure, with the Dora school district paying 25 percent of the basic cost plus additional funds for extra components that weren’t part of the basic FEMA plan – such as a hardwood floor for the gym rather than tile, Richards said. He gave a “rough estimate” for the project’s total cost at around $1.14 million, with the district paying $350,000 to $400,000 for its 25 percent share plus the added extras.

The only work remaining to be done is the guttering and the installation of the FEMA-required generator, which is designed to kick in automatically in case of power outage. Those projects are expected to be completed in the next few weeks. Later in the year, as funds become available, the school hopes to purchase a covering to protect the gym’s floor as well as folding tables that can be used for inside gatherings and picnic tables to be placed outside.

When tornado warnings are issued, area residents can take shelter in the FEMA building day or night. When school is in session, each class in the school will be led to a designated area of the FEMA gym, and community residents will be welcomed into the center of the large room, Richards said.

The building will also be open during tornado warnings when school is not in session, he said. Keys to the building are given to specific school personnel who take responsibility, on a rotating basis, for opening the building when needed. An awning covers an outdoor walkway from the FEMA building to the school’s existing gym, but the FEMA structure itself is completely separate from the rest of the school, so it can be used without opening the rest of the school building.

During the school day, teachers can use the building’s gym for physical education classes, indoor recess or other activities, as needed, Richards said. The restrooms will be accessible during softball games and other outdoor sports events and activities. But besides being used for school purposes and as a storm shelter, the building is also intended as a place where families and community groups can hold gatherings. 

“The Dora community uses its school a lot. And I do think the community will benefit quite a bit from this building,” Richards said. “The board hasn’t approved it yet, but we’re leaning toward charging a small deposit to use the building, and then if they clean it up afterward, they get the deposit back. We’re not trying to make money. We want it to be something that both the school and the community use.”

Ozark County Times

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