TPS Cuts Ribbon On Mitchell Elementary Library-Safe Room


Friday, April 10th 2015, 1:37 pm
By: Emory Bryan


When storms swept across Sand Springs and Tulsa two weeks ago, the staff at Mitchell Elementary took shelter in it bullet and tornado-proof library.

The new library/safe room standard for Tulsa Public Schools costs a little bit more to build, but the savings could be all the children in the school.

It was one of the last ribbon cuttings for Dr. Keith Ballard, but there will be a lot of similar ribbon cuttings on storm shelters, because TPS has at least 20 more planned.

Everything about the room looks like a library, but it's actually a reinforced concrete box. The exception is the windows, those are bullet proof, blast proof and that's tornado proof.

"And the windows are a new deal, and they're not cheap, but if you want a place that's conducive to learning where they're comfortable in their everyday events, you want natural light," said Bob Roberts with TPS Emergency Management.

The extra reinforcement to qualify as a safe room for an entire school added $300,000 to the cost. It was part of a larger project to add eight new classrooms to the building.

Tulsa Public Schools decided five years ago to add safe rooms in all new construction jobs at schools that didn't have them.

The safe room has extra secure doors with super thick glass that almost makes everything air tight; that's why they have air vents on the outside. Even during a tornado they can safely let in outside air.

On the inside, the air vents in through closets that are lined with concrete. Fresh air is important when the shelter is needed during school hours because there are more than 500 children at Mitchell.

"We actually had a tornado drill this week and we fit 540 students in there, it worked really well," said Mitchell Principal, Dr. Lyda Wilbur.

The statistics about it are less important to Librarian Katy Blair than what it really means to students frightened by a storm.

“It's really nice to be able to remove that worry from them, at least one thing we can take care of, you don't have to worry, you're safe, we've got it,” she said.

Tulsa now has two of the libraries. An addition at Edison will have the same technology and it's under construction now.

Related Story 4/10/2015: New Tulsa Public Schools Storm Shelter Opens; Others In Works

3/4/2015 Related Story: Tornado-Proof Library New Addition To Tulsa Public Schools