Oklahoma has used federal money to help thousands of individuals build safe rooms and underground shelters since 1999. Schools, however, haven’t received nearly as much aid.
The Edmond School Board doesn’t seem to care. It’s moving forward with plans to install shelters on its own at Memorial High School and seven elementary schools across the district — all built before 1990.
The board voted on the policy at Monday’s monthly meeting. District spokeswoman Susan Parks-Schlepp told The Oklahoman‘s Steve Gust the board made shelters a priority after seeing the damage and loss of life at schools hit by the massive EF5 tornado in Moore on May 20:
Parks-Schlepp said the Edmond elementary schools needing better storm protection are Angie Debo, Clegern, Ida Freeman, Orvis Risner, Sunset, John Ross and Russell Dougherty. More than 2,000 students attend Memorial and thousands more attend the elementary schools that don’t have designated shelter space.
Many Edmond public schools — all of those built after 1990 — do have designated shelter space, but ensuring they all do won’t be cheap:
The price tag could range from $27 million to $30 million, Parks-Schlepp said. If plans proceed on schedule, Edmond voters could decide the issue as early as August of next year. It would be part of a bond project.
Paying for the shelters will be on the citizens of Edmond, but only those at the schools will use them. Citing concerns about overcrowding and liability, the city in 2012 announced that no schools — indeed no city facilities at all — would again be used as tornado shelters for the general public.