‘A high priority'
Lanier, the Oakdale superintendent, said building the safe room as part of a larger construction project that included the gym and a classroom wing was more cost effective. The project cost about $4 million and was funded by a voter-approved bond.
Since 2003, LWPB Architecture has designed 21 school projects and two day care projects with safe rooms, including Oakdale. Two of those projects — elementary schools in Midwest City and Mustang — are under construction.
The projects include schools in Chickasha, Claremore, Jones, Kingfisher, Luther, Noble, Oakdale, Okarche, Oklahoma City, Sapulpa, Shawnee and Stillwater.
“Safe rooms have usually been a high priority for our school clients,” Wegener said. “However, it is on everyone's mind right now and being discussed more. I suspect there may be more additions planned in the near future to address more safe room construction.”
The cost to build a safe room varies depending on the size of the project, and the safe room is usually is priced as part of larger project that includes classroom and gym construction, said Wegener, who estimated the cost of the Oakdale safe room to be about $100,000.
“Typically, we don't build them by themselves,” he said. “Typically, they're part of a larger project, and they're more affordable when they're part of a larger project.”
‘Still under review'
Neither Plaza Towers nor Briarwood elementary schools in Moore were equipped with shelters when the tornado hit. Also destroyed was the gym at Highland East Junior High.
Each will be rebuilt with safe rooms or safe structures, and both schools are scheduled to be completed for the 2014-15 school year, said Robert Romines, superintendent of Moore Public Schools.
There are 31 schools in the district, including 23 elementary schools and five junior highs.
“We will obviously be assessing all new construction, and as we do we will be reviewing all new construction for safe area, safe room-type structures,” Romines said.
The district is planning to add prekindergarten wings to as many to four and possibly five elementary schools and will consider building safe rooms as part of the construction, Romines said.
The wings would be added at the rate of one per year, said Romines, who declined to identify the schools.
As for the district's existing schools without safe rooms or shelters, the superintendent said “we don't have a definite plan for that.”
“That's something that's still under review,” he said.
After the May 1999 tornado, safe hallways were built in Kelley Elementary School and Westmoore High School with FEMA assistance, Romines said.
In February, voters approved a $120 million bond issue, which Romines said will be used to fund construction of two new elementary schools and a junior high. Also planned is additional gym and band room construction.
“We have sent those plans back to the architects to incorporate those (safe room) designs,” he said. “We've got a lot of building that will be taking place this next school year.”
As for Lanier, he is breathing more easily with a fortified safe room he says the public can use in case of emergency.
But after three decades as a superintendent, he hasn't forgotten the importance of being prepared.
Twice, in 1999 and 2007, tornadoes destroyed structures on the Oakdale campus. Fortunately, no one was hurt because the twisters struck when the school was empty.
“To me, those drills and precautions are just as important as where you go to get safe, because sometimes those are your only options,” he said.