Towns, schools eyeing Woodsboro’s dome
by Kenda Nelson
Dec 31, 2011 | 3212 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Woodsboro ISD superintendent and school board members cast aside paradigms as to what a gymnasium should look like and searched for an efficient, cost-effective building that would not only meet their need for a gym but for a strong building that the entire community can use as a shelter from hurricanes and tornadoes.
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Three years ago, Woodsboro ISD needed a gymnasium for its junior high. A gym was included in the community-supported $9.9 million bond issue for major construction and building upgrades.

However, the project got underway in the middle of a construction boom and funds were tight.

Undaunted, school officials cast old paradigms aside and began to think outside the box. School board member Henry Fierova went “all over the south looking at domes,” said Steven Self, WISD superintendent.

After investigating their options, the board reached a decision: a monolithic all-purpose dome not only met the school’s needs but the community’s as well. In October, the dome was completed and the final volleyball game inaugurated the building.

Woodsboro’s dome has heads turning all across Texas. School and city officials have been blazing a trail to the coastal community to visit and follow Woodsboro’s lead.

“We’ve had visits with Tidehaven, Edna, Banquete, Corpus Christi - the school district and the city, Brownsville school district and city, and UT-Pan American at Edinburg,” said Steven Self, WISD superintendent. “Some from deep East Texas in the Orange-Beaumont area also are interested in building one. There’s been more but I can’t remember all of them.”

Self and the school board worked with city and county officials to obtain a $1.6 million Department of Homeland Security and FEMA grant for the dome. The steel-reinforced concrete building meets Federal Emergency Management Agency standards for near-absolute protection from hurricanes.

The community did not have a shelter for first responders and other emergency personnel who cannot evacuate, so that need was met as well.

“The elementary school is all glass so the rest rooms were the only place to go,” Self said. “This was a big safety issue for the elementary students.”

In March 2010, construction got underway on the 22,000-square foot multi-purpose dome.

“We have witnessed so many times how many people are unable to evacuate during hurricanes and at times have nowhere to go for shelter,” said U.S. Congressman Ruben Hinojosa. “I am very pleased to see the residents of Woodsboro and the surrounding area will have a safe place to take their families.”

The dome offers room for 700 students and supporting staff and faculty.

As a bonus, the school also received a grant to install solar panels which are hooked up to the dome. WISD was one of 51 school districts to receive the grant.

“Hopefully, the dome will cost us very little,” Self said.

On clear, sunny days, the school puts electricity back into the grid. A panel in the library shows students how much energy is being saved at any given time.

“If the school district had to pay for the entire system, we couldn’t have done it,” Self said. “The payback is six years. After that, we should have free energy for the school district.”

The efficiency of the dome along with the innovation to add the solar panels will continue to save the citizens of Woodsboro tax dollars for years to come.

David South, president of the Texas-based Monolithic Dome Institute attended the official dedication of the dome. He told more than 100 who gathered at the dome that the “green” features of the building are a big selling point for many school districts.

“The energy savings alone will usually pay for the total cost of the structure within the first 20 years,” he said. “They also are very durable structures. Properly maintained, they will last for centuries.”
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