Oklahoma City School Board members voted unanimously Monday night to approve $5 million worth of construction projects, including a combination gymnasium and safe room for the district's second largest elementary school.
Members voted 7-0 to move forward with construction of two new classrooms and the dual-purpose gym at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, where 944 students are enrolled.
“A safe room will alleviate some of the fears that my parents have about their children being in school when there are tornado alerts,” Principal Laura Morris said. “Also, it will help the children feel safer, being in a place where they know they are going to be OK.”
The estimated cost of the project is $3,371,000, including $1,998,000 for the gym and safe room.
The panel did not comment before voting.
Board member Jay Means, during a subsequent discussion, questioned the safety of adding safe rooms to gym construction at two dozen other schools.
Means called the practice of building an aboveground shelter in a structure the size of a gym “absolutely ridiculous.”
Other projects approved include a new health clinic at Emerson Mid-High School, which serves the most teenage mothers and expectant moms in the district; drop-off driveway improvements to Lee Elementary; and renovations to F.D. Moon Elementary, including those that would bring the school into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The total cost of the projects is $5,129,556, and will be paid for with remaining MAPS for Kids money, officials said.
The Moon project was approved instead of new playgrounds at 16 elementary schools because it was a priority and the playgrounds, which will cost $75,000 apiece to build, can be paid for with money from a 2007 bond issue, said Terry Wolfe, the district's senior facilities officer.
“It's very limited,” Wolfe said of the access for disabled people. “It needs to be improved.”