Construction Nearly Finished On Tushka School Destroyed By Tornado

Wednesday, April 16th 2014, 5:38 pm
By: Craig Day

Three years ago this week, a tornado tore through Tushka in Atoka County in southern Oklahoma, killing several people, destroying homes and leveling the school. Now, construction is nearly finished on a new $8 million school with built-in storm shelters.

On the outside of Tushka's new school, bricks from the old school are built into the entryway.

Although students aren't in the new school yet, they did hold the prom there, giving seniors at least some fond memories of the new building. Much better than memories of the tornado that destroyed their school three years ago.

4/14/2011 Related Story: Small Atoka County Community Devastated By Deadly Tornado

"I'm just real proud, real excited. Ready to get the kids in here and get started," said high school Principal Matt Simpson.

One advantage of starting with a blank slate is that everything from playground equipment, to the media center, the science lab to security systems are new and state of the art.

But what makes this school unique is there are three classrooms that double as storm shelters.

"It's a tremendous peace of mind," Simpson said.

Each of the elementary, middle and high schools wings has one reinforced classroom that double as storm shelters. It's hard to tell there is anything different than the other classrooms.

"The color of the door; because this door is going to be the reinforced metal door, because of the safety purposes," Simpson said. "And then it will not have the window accessible for the teacher to see out."

But the rooms are storm ready, with reinforced concrete and steel. A second steel door is an emergency exit, and it allows the public inside to seek safety during severe weather.

"Different emergency people will have keys to these things so they can open these things up and let people come in to use those," said Simpson.

Insurance money and the school's general building fund are paying for the school, instead of a bond issue.

But as many Oklahoma schools look at bonds or other ways to make schools more storm safe, Simpson said the investment is worth it.

"Where we are in Oklahoma, it's not if it happens, it's when it happens," he said.

The three rooms have 35,000 square feet of space, enough room for more than 600 people.