The other half of the money for the project comes from Iowa's one-cent sales tax fund, which must be used to build or maintain schools.
"The real great thing about the safe room is that it will get used every day," Pedersen said.
Currently, the elementary school does not have a cafeteria. Kids use the gym for lunch; during lunchtime, no classes can take place there.
The contract says that the structure should be completed by November, but the crew is really moving fast, the superintendent said, estimating that it could be done as soon as September. From pre-school to fifth grade, there are about 350 students in the district's elementary building.
"Our location makes it make sense. And it’s important to the people in our district," Pedersen said.
Two Ottumwa residents visiting Agency were killed by an F2 tornado. Pedersen said he has been assured the new saferoom will protect children "in up to F5 winds."
To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark