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Western Heights school district in Oklahoma City nears completion of storm shelter goal

Shelter Oklahoma Schools presented the Western Heights school district with a check for $100,000 to build a storm shelter at Greenvale Elementary School.
by Matt Patterson Modified: January 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm •  Published: January 6, 2014

When the May 20 tornado moved through the Oklahoma City area, Greenvale Elementary School Principal Diane Klein rode out the storm inside her office with about 60 first-graders crammed into the space.

By this time next year, Greenvale will have its own safe room that will comfortably accommodate up to 400 people and be rated to withstand an EF5 tornado. There are about 270 students in the school.

Shelter Oklahoma Schools presented the Western Heights school district with a check for $100,000 on Monday. The nonprofit charity was founded to advance efforts to build storm shelters in every school in the state. The check was presented by Reps. Jon Echols and Mark McBride to Western Heights Superintendent Joe Kitchens.

“This is a terrific feeling,” Klein said. “We practice intruder drills, fire drills, lockdown drills and tornado drills, so to have this adds just an extra level of peace of mind.”

In addition to Klein's office, students and staff sheltered in May in another office and in the teacher's lounge, the most interior sections of the buildings.

Teachers worked to calm the nerves of students.

“The kids were really nervous, and I heard many of my teachers working to comfort them,” Klein said.

“We had a teacher reading a book to them and another singing songs. We have an outstanding staff, and I think once the students see it being built, they will understand that it's real and that it's very important to their safety.”

The shelter will cost about $600,000.

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by Matt Patterson
Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun....
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