Mayflower School District storm shelter starts

By Tammy Keith Published June 18, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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A groundbreaking was held Monday for the Mayflower Elementary School storm shelter. Participating are, front row, from left, Mayflower High School Principal T.J. Slough; school board members Pat Raney, Benji Post, Terry Turner, Delorise Kocher and Sherilee Holland, board president; Mayor Randy Holland; Assistant Middle School Principal Kim Koch; and Superintendent John Gray. In the back row are Jim Houston, a member of the Mayflower Chamber of Commerce Board and the Faulkner County Quorum Court; Eddy York, president of the Mayflower Chamber of Commerce; Dilbert Dawson, chairman of the Mayflower Planning Commission; David Adcock, a member of the Mayflower City Council; Bunny Brown, architect; Barbara Mathes, recorder and assistant to the mayor; and Olive Gray, resident.

MAYFLOWER — The next time a tornado siren goes off during school hours in Mayflower, nervous elementary students will have a safe place to go.

A groundbreaking was held Monday for a $1.3 million tornado shelter to be built in the Mayflower Elementary School courtyard.

Superintendent John Gray said the 3,000-square-foot prefabricated concrete building will have a capacity of 450 people.

“It’s enough to hold our elementary building when full with staff,” he said.

Gray said the district has a shelter to protect older students, but not the elementary students.

“We’ve got a 20-year plan we started about eight years ago, and [the shelter] was part of it. When the tornado came through, it accelerated the need for a storm shelter to protect all our kids,” he said.

Four people were killed in Mayflower when a tornado ripped through Faulkner County on April 27, 2014. After that storm, Gray said, the elementary school shelter was bumped up to a high priority.

“We decided on a place to put it and started raising money and looking for grants and employed an architect,” he said.

The district hired Jackson, Brown and Palculict Architects of Little Rock and Moser Construction of Bryant for the project.

The Mayflower School District received a $553,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Gray said. “Normally, FEMA gives 75 percent, but given what money was around at the time, we managed to get that, which we appreciated,” he said.

The balance of the project was paid for with money from the United Way of Central Arkansas, state funds, the Rainbow Foundation, general donations and the school-district’s building fund, Gray said.

He said the prefabricated building will be delivered in July; then it will be completed on-site.

“We waited till this summer to build while the kids were out,” Gray said. “We’re hoping to have it all completed by September.”

Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland said the storm shelter is part of the overall vision for a central gathering place in Mayflower, a project called Heart of Mayflower. The elementary school shelter and a community center/police department, which will have a groundbreaking in August, are the first components of the long-range plan, he said.

They are in proximity to each other, as well as the library branch and the Mayflower Senior Center, Holland said.

“It’s fantastic,” he said of the storm shelter. “It’s one thing that helps the community, and anytime you’re saving lives, even if you’re saving one life, that’s worth all the effort,” he said. “That’s what it’s about — saving lives.”

Gray said the shelter will give peace of mind to students and staff.

“The elementary kids are still very nervous about the storms because they still remember the tornadoes,” Gray said. “We really think the storm shelter, giving them a safe place to go, will make them feel more secure and better.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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