Tornado's aftermath created changes at schools

By Dawn Marks and Jesse Olivarez Published: May 1, 2009
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Since the May 3, 1999, tornadoes, administrators in several school districts have added safe rooms.

In other cases, they've worked to revise emergency plans.

In Moore, the tornado blew away a majority of Kelley Elementary School and damaged parts of Westmoore High School. District officials used funds from FEMA to install safety features at both schools.

At Kelley Elementary, the entrances to the school's main hallways have large, reinforced doors that can be dropped down from the ceiling so that strong winds don't form a wind tunnel effect in the school. Westmoore High School has a safe room large enough to hold students and faculty.

Jim Day, Moore's executive director of operations, said those schools are the only ones with built-in storm safety features. The district's other 28 schools have interior areas where students and faculty can go in severe weather.

The district's student population, which has grown by almost 2,000 students since the tornado, has officials focusing primarily on providing enough classrooms, Day said. Putting safe rooms in all buildings was too costly without federal assistance, he said.

In Oklahoma City Public Schools, where the range of age of buildings is wide, installing safe rooms is often expensive and complicated, said Terry Wolfe, the district's senior facilities director.