Tulsa School Uses Storm Shelter For First Time Amid Severe Weather

Tuesday, October 9th 2018, 6:06 pm
By: Emory Bryan

When severe storms arrived in Tulsa Tuesday, Tulsa Public Schools moved children into safe areas.

Some schools used new storm shelters for the very first time.

The district has four new tornado shelters. It's the gymnasium at Emerson Elementary, and in new construction, they're hardly noticeable.

Tulsa Public Schools has more than 80 buildings but relatively few storm shelters.

“After the 2015 Bond is done, we'll have 20 completed,” said TPS Bond Manager Chris Hudgins. 

It's going to take a long time, but Hudgins says every major construction project will include them.

“When we do a classroom addition, a new construction project, we've made a conscious decision, this is something we want to put in every school,” said Hudgins. 

The wind started blowing Tuesday morning at Zarrow Elementary and the principal didn't wait for a warning.

She emptied the hallways, moving students to the new classroom wing.

All of it is a storm shelter.

Large shutters cover the windows during a storm, the roof is reinforced, and signs show the way.

The shelter was used for the first time Tuesday.

“It went very well, we've had several drills so the kids are used to calmly walking down there,” said Zarrow Principal Denise Marquez. 

Tulsa Public has 13 schools with shelters.

The newest ones are at Whitman, Emerson, McKinley, and McClure

The next ones planned are at McArthur, Grissom, and Lanier. 

Reinforcing what would otherwise be standard construction added $400,000 to the cost.

For the principal, it's an insurance policy well worth the cost.

“I have 500 students and 68 staff members I'm responsible for and knowing I have a safe place for them if that comes up is very comforting and it's wonderful to have,” said Marquez. 

At Zarrow, the students were only in there for 8 minutes while the storm passed.