Tulsa Public Schools Begins Construction On Storm Shelters

Wednesday, May 11th 2016, 1:38 pm
By: Joseph Holloway

Tulsa students will soon have a safe place to go when severe storms approach. The district is adding 20 new storm shelters that will double as classrooms or libraries.

Voters recently approved a bond that’s paying for the safe rooms, and crews just started work on the first one at Springdale Elementary.

"We are in a 91-year-old building so they didn't really build things to tornado code back in those days," said Springdale principal, Becky Bacon.

Bacon said a lot of parents don't feel comfortable keeping their kids in class during severe weather.

"As soon as the rain came in, we had probably 30 parents come and pick up their students early," she said.

District leaders in Tulsa are hoping to change that trend.

By the end of the year, Springdale Elementary will have a new set of classrooms able to withstand the strongest of storms.

"If by just some fluke you get that one-half of one percent tornado, that F4 or F5 that's coming through, this will up it to that level," said Emergency Manager Bob Roberts.

And 19 other schools in the district are also building safe rooms.

Roberts explained what makes the shelters so durable, saying, “The roof is much stronger than a normal roof. Normally, the roof is gonna be the weak spot."

He said, “The glass, as I mentioned, it's gonna be glass that can withstand an impact at high speeds of wind-driven debris."

School leaders hope the new safe rooms bring peace of mind to students and their parents.

"We can get all the students, all 530-some of them, in one area and we'll have bathrooms and running water so they can stay there for quite some time," Bacon said.

The district opened shelters at Lindbergh and Mitchell last year as part of a previous bond.

Only students and staff are able to use the shelters, not the general public.