Safe room a reality for SALC

Some committee members Front: Carla Moser, Jill Tibbals and H-W Superintendent Dianne Anderson. Back: Duane Johnson, LS-C Elementary Principal Rob Hughes, Jerry Johnson, Libby Schwade, Interim Coordinator Denise Krauskopf, Upper Explorerland Developer Bill Ziegler and James Kitchen.

It started with small steps—getting a committee together, forming a plan and meeting, meeting, meeting. Then bigger steps—applying for grants, thinking a new learning center may be a reality. Now—the dancing starts!

The Howard-Winneshiek Community School District received word on October 11 it was given a nearly half-million dollar grant for a tornado safe room at the proposed Spring Ahead Learning Center (SALC).

The tornado safe room was the biggest item on the “wish list” for the facility, that will be adjacent to the Lime Springs-Chester Elementary School. Because of the safe room, up to 268 locals (youth and adults) will have a safe place to go during a tornado. The grant is also a huge chunk of change going toward the construction of the learning center, which triples as a day care center, preschool and safe area.

The SALC will allow parents a one-stop-drop for their children. Birth through age 12 youth can be dropped off in the morning without worry of how to get them to school—they’re already there. When school is out, they return to the learning center, for a controlled and safe after-school setting until parents can pick them up in the afternoon.

The $488,750 grant ($431,250 from FEMA and $57,500 from the State of Iowa’s Homeland Security Emergency Management Division), added to:
~ $200,000 grant from USDA Rural Development~ $250,000 from How-Winn.

~ $300,000 from a CDBG grant makes the total in grants  a whopping $1.2 million plus so far. The entire project is estimated at $1.3 million, leaving a $100,000 deficit.

The SALC Committee has done their job so far and are asking for only $100,000 in local funds—over $50,000 of which has already been raised.When LS-C Elementary School Principal Robert Hughes and Superintendent Dianne Anderson were given the news by Bill Ziegler, Upper Explorerland, Mr. Hughes stated, “This is a magnificent achievement for both the school district and the Lime Springs area.

The community has worked so hard for the last three years to establish a safe haven not only for the children, but also for all local citizens during severe storms. This is also a strong support for our school as it will help us grow and offer the best educational services possible for our early learners.”  A coalition of local citizens, business owners, school staff, architect and city, regional, state and federal government partners collaborated to make the safe room and early childhood learning center a reality.
SALC—A dream come true for Lime Springs community

This journey began in October of 2007 when a group of community members assessed the benefits to local families and the future development of the Lime Springs area to have a child care center at the existing elementary school location.

In the fall of 2008, a survey was conducted which determined a need for further child care, including before and after school care.  Current day care providers were filled to capacity and turned families away, showing a deep need for more child care arrangements. In addition, rural Howard County has many parents who commute to their work locations. A one-stop-drop Learning Center offers strong support to all families and the local communities and encourages community and economic development for the local area.

The Spring Ahead Learning Center welcomes and will serve children from across the northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota area. For parents who travel to work, the center will be a safe environment in the small town.The Howard-Winneshiek Community School District is committed to early childhood education and supporting young families.

This will be the third early childhood center facility established within the school district: Cresco Early Childhood Center and Elma Early Childhood Center were developed.  The Howard-Winneshiek District also acquired the State of Iowa Voluntary Four-Year-Old Preschool Grant in 2008. This program was increased from four half days to four full days. Collaborative and shared programs exist between Head Start and Spring Ahead’s private non-profit three-year-old program. The negotiated contracts and rental of school building space has allowed both entities to increase services and reduce barriers for young families.

“We are so fortunate to have supportive partners and dedicated volunteers,” states Principal Hughes.  “Lime Springs-Chester Elementary and the communities it serves will definitely benefit from the strong support. We are one of the first, and only, to receive financial commitments from a wide array of local, State of Iowa, and Federal sources. People both within our community and in the larger nation see the worth of these investments.”

• In order to fund the project, a $200,000 USDA-Rural Development Grant was successfully awarded to the HWCSD in 2009.

• Howard-Winneshiek CSD financially supported the Learning Center/Safe Room Project with a $250,000 commitment.

• In April 2010, the City of Lime Springs was one of four Iowa cities to receive a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through the Iowa Department of Economic Development, amounting to a $300,000 grant.

• During this process, the City of Lime Springs completed its Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning efforts and identified that severe weather and tornados were a threat to the safety of citizens and specifically the school children.

The Hazard Mitigation Plan was FEMA-approved, allowing the City of Lime Springs in collaboration with the Howard-Winneshiek CSD to compete for FEMA Hazard Mitigation Project grants. The recent FEMA grant approval includes $431,250 from FEMA, and $57,500 from the State of Iowa’s Homeland Security Emergency Management Division, totaling $488,750.  The total cost of the Spring Ahead Learning Center is $1.3 million dollars with $575,000 in costs being the tornado shelter.

Bill Menner, USDA Rural Development State Director in Iowa, says, “We are pleased to be assisting the Howard-Winneshiek Community School District in their efforts to promote strong children, families and communities.”• In addition to grant and school funding, the SALC is committed to raising $100,000 through its capital campaign. Currently, $58,200 has been raised through generous donations from local residents and businesses.

As part of the capital campaign, SALC is promoting a “Korn for Kids” program, where local grain producers can donate to the project through bushels of grain. Partnering with A&K Feed and Grain, Ostrander Farmers Co-op, and Winneshiek Co-op, this initiative has raised over $5,000 in its first week. Also, the R.J. McElroy Trust awarded Spring Ahead Learning Center a $10,000 grant towards its capital campaign, which will be given once $90,000 in donations have been received.The new SALC will provide a dual purpose, providing quality child care services and an immediately-accessible storm shelter. The design and building will be such that it looks like a normal building but a portion of it will be hardened by concrete walls to withstand an F5 Tornado with winds up to 250 miles per hour. The building will include an emergency generator and shelter for as many as 268 residents.  Access to the storm shelter will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Child care services will be provided to as many as 60 children, from birth to age 12.   The Learning Center will be attached to the existing LS-C Elementary building, offering families before and after school care, easing the frustration of safe child care and transportation to work.The Spring Ahead Learning Center will improve the quality of life for Lime Springs, Chester and Howard County. The key to the success of this community project is thorough planning, research, collaboration and partnerships.  Bill Ziegler, Community Developer from Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission, who assisted the community and school district in writing the FEMA grant and will help them manage the grant, comments, “Proper planning, community involvement and support provides a powerful edge when it comes to these competitive grants.” Local partners who helped leverage funding opportunities and assist in this effort, include  USDA-Rural Development, FEMA, Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management, HUD (CDBG), Iowa Department of Economic Development, Northeast Iowa Community Action, HAWC Empowerment and CCR, Regional Health Services and C US Bank.Also Cresco Bank & Trust, A & K Feed & Grain, Johnson Farms, Kitchen Construction, Howard County Economic Development, Skott & Anderson Architects, Spring Ahead Preschool LLC, City of Lime Springs, Howard-Winneshiek Community School District, the SALC Advisory Committee, committed volunteers and community residents. Mr. Ziegler believes the Spring Ahead Learning Center will be “a model for many communities to follow.”


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