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Statewide Poll Shows Most Voters Support School Storm Shelter Mandate

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While all schools have a tornado plan in place, few have a true safe room to go to, to ride out a storm. While all schools have a tornado plan in place, few have a true safe room to go to, to ride out a storm.
© Tulsa resident Gail Rose is part of the majority who think schools should be required to have storm shelters. © Tulsa resident Gail Rose is part of the majority who think schools should be required to have storm shelters.
Bonnie Rogers, with Jenks Public schools, said shelters would be nice, but the district can't afford such a costly project. Bonnie Rogers, with Jenks Public schools, said shelters would be nice, but the district can't afford such a costly project.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

Putting storm shelters in schools is a hot topic in Oklahoma, and a new survey shows the majority of voters in the state approve of it.

While all schools have a tornado plan in place, few have a true safe room to go to, to ride out a storm.

SoonerPoll.com has surveyed 400 Oklahomans within the past month. More than 75 percent say they would support legislation to force districts to put storm shelters in schools, but can't agree on how to pay for them.

Tulsa resident Gail Rose is part of the majority. She said putting storm shelters in Oklahoma schools would not only save lives, but they would also provide a peace of mind to parents.

5/28/2013 Related Story: Storm Shelters Of All Types Performed Well In Moore Tornado

"When we know there's a disaster and we're advised not to get our children and allow the school to protect them, it would feel a lot better to actually know they had the resources to do so," Rose said.

There are a couple schools within the Tulsa district that do have storm shelters or basements, but Rose's daughter's elementary school is not one of those.

Sofie Welch, age 8: "When we do tornado drills, we go to the closets."
Reporter Tess Maune: "At school, do you ever feel like you need a basement or a safe room?"
Sofie: "Yes I do."

To install shelters in all schools, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management estimates it would cost between $500,000 and $1 million, per school. There are over 1,500 public schools in the state.

It's for that reason Governor Mary Fallin says she does not support mandating schools to have storm shelters, but says she would consider the idea of a voluntary fundraising effort.

6/5/2013 Related Story: Tulsa Daycare Center Invests In Safe Room

Jenks is another district that has no schools equipped with safe rooms. Bonnie Rogers, with the district, says it would be nice to have a safer place for students to go, but the district can't afford such a costly project.

"We want to provide students the best education we can, given the money that we have. If that were to become a mandate, it would be basically devastating to us," Rogers said.

The Oklahoma Watch survey asked voters how to pay for mandatory shelters. About 44 percent agree on increasing the state sales tax, while 16 percent say raising property taxes is the way to go.

Rose said, "A lot of those dollars go to our schools, directly to our schools. So, people object to property taxes being assessed, and not realizing that is a direct line to supporting our schools, so there's a lot of options, but I think the property tax is probably the best."

The governor says she would like to meet with state leaders to discuss how to better protect students while at school. That meeting won't take place until recovery and clean-up efforts are complete from last month's tornadoes.

SoonerPoll.com conducted the random-sample, scientific survey from May 22 through June 12, using live telephone interviewers. Of the 402 respondents who participated, 108 were contacted by cell phone and 295 by land line. The combined results have been weighted to adjust for variation in the sample relating to age, sex and political party. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. For smaller subgroups, the margin of sampling error is larger. Some respondents were interviewed this week by Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit investigative team established to report on public policy issues in Oklahoma.

See the SoonerPoll.com survey results

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