New Tulsa Public Schools Storm Shelter Opens; Others In Works

Thursday, February 12th 2015, 6:55 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa Public Schools opened a new storm shelter at an elementary school today. It's part of a trend they want to build on with the next bond issue.

At Central High, there's a plan for a new addition that doubles as a storm shelter. Every time TPS builds new space it wants to make it tornado proof.

A heavy door is the last line of defense for the storm shelter at Lindbergh Elementary. But it otherwise looks like a library -- because it is -- except it's strong enough to withstand a tornado.

“All-new construction, according to code, the code will change in a couple of years anyway and require it, so we're going ahead to do it with all new construction,” TPS Bond Project Manager Bob LaBass said.

The district cut the ribbon on a new library and storm shelter at Lindbergh, one of two designs like it in Tulsa. Making it tornado proof added $300,000 to the cost.

"But if you're adding on anyway, it takes more money obviously, but it's worth it,” TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard said. “And if you're adding on, let's just take advantage of the latest technology and build these safe rooms."

TPS plans to use the same glass in all of the new shelters, which makes it possible to build a shelter that looks like a normal room.

“And then we look at hardening these sections where we're going to be adding on, in this case we have a lot of elementary schools with trailers, that's where our classroom additions will be,” TPS Emergency Manager Bob Roberts said.

Of the 19 schools getting storm shelters -- at a cost of $7.1 million -- mostly are elementary schools. Some will be library storm shelters, the other new classrooms that double as shelters.

Edison Middle School and the McLain Seventh Grade Academy will get shelters along with one high school - Central.

Edison High already has a storm shelter addition underway, but with the next bond, schools like Patrick Henry - and the McLain Seventh Grade Academy - will get them for the first time.

The storm shelters are part of the next bond issue vote that voters will decide on March 3.