Oklahoma City Schools Weighs Safe Rooms on All Campuses

October 11, 2013

Oklahoma’s largest public school district is considering a policy that would require the construction of safe rooms to protect children from violent weather.

The Oklahoma City School Board on Monday rejected bids for a new gym at Nichols Hills Elementary and asked that new proposals include costs for both a gym and a safe room. Interest in school safety grew after seven children died in Moore when their elementary school was hit by a tornado May 20.

“It’s a timely issue,” said Lynne Hardin, the board’s chair.

Oklahoma City has 45,000 students in 84 schools. The school board is considering having safe rooms built along with new gyms at 25 elementary schools, including Nichols Hills.

“I think it is our responsibility … to act on it and not just talk about it,” said board member Justin Ellis, whose district includes Nichols Hills.

State Rep. Joe Dorman is backing an initiative that would let state voters decide whether Oklahoma should borrow $500 million to improve school safety. Gov. Mary Fallin has said school shelter construction should be a local decision.

School officials say building a gym with a safe room attached can boost construction costs by 20 percent to 30 percent.

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