Claremore Daily Progress

May 26, 2013

Rogers County superintendents talk storm safety

Mark Friedel
Staff Reporter

ROGERS COUNTY —

With two Moore schools destroyed and seven children dead following Monday’s EF-5 tornado, state and national officials have begun discussing the topic of safe rooms in schools.
“I’ve heard some schools are looking into adding safe rooms that would cost upwards of $1 million. That’s expensive,” said Catoosa Public Schools Superintendent Rick Kibbe. “Not to say that it won’t happen in the future, but there are no plans to build safe rooms (at Catoosa Schools) at this time.”
Kibbe said the district is required to perform a tornado drill twice every school year and students learn where to quickly take shelter.
“Classes are given designated ‘safe spots’ in reconstructed centrally located areas, such as bathrooms or hallways.”
Oologah Superintendent Rob Armstrong said his district works with authorities to determine which buildings are the safest for cover.
“We monitor all storms that come close to the Oologah-Talala areas. We work to move classes to the opposite corner of the building, out of the storm’s path in a reconstructed area with no windows,” he said. “Our goal is to keep all students, teachers and faculty safe.”
Monday’s storm which produced a tornado 15 miles north of Oologah led to early school closings for the district.
“As we were monitoring the storm through the afternoon, we decided to finish activities early. About 35 minutes later most of the students were able to be picked up,” he said. “Some parents heading home to Talala stopped at the high school to take cover and wait out the storm.”
Armstrong said he feels for all of those affected by the tornado and realizes the same destruction could occur in Oologah and surrounding areas in Rogers County. 
“We all accept the fact that it could happen to any of us in Oklahoma. We just hope that it never does.”
During a press conference Thursday, Gov. Mary Fallin said out of 1,752 public schools, only 100 Oklahoma schools have tornado safe rooms or shelters. She thinks it’s important for the state to talk about requiring new schools to include those types of facilities.
Fallin said the state should gather data regarding which schools have and need shelters.