Wichita Public Schools continue construction for safe room storm shelters

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WICHITA, Kansas– Hundreds of students at two elementary schools in Moore Oklahoma were taking shelter before the deadly tornado touched down.

Closer to home, Wichita school leaders are taking active measures when it comes to their safe room storm shelters.

Thousands of students in Wichita Public Schools take part in the state wide ‘Severe Weather Awareness Week’ every March.

During this time Wichita students and staff practice going through their tornado drills.

But it’s a different kind of drill than most other schools in the country where kids seek shelter in a hallway away from windows.

“The huge advantage is obviously safety first and foremost,” said Julie Hedrick, Division Directors of Facilities for Wichita Public Schools.

USD 259 was the first school district in the country to build safe room storm shelters to protect their students and staff from potential deadly tornadoes.

As of March 2013 there are currently 77 schools in the district with a safe room.

16 schools are still waiting for construction to start on their safe rooms, but this kind of safety comes with a price.

“I’m sure school districts throughout the nation would love to be able to provide safe rooms,” said Hedrick. “Yes, it is a benefit for safety, but without the money available you know it’s hard to do things without money and funding.”

Building these safe rooms is all part of the voter approved 2008 bond issue.

The ultimate goal is to have a safe room storm shelter for every school in the district– a room that could possibly save a life.

“To have had the support of board and community and had those bond issue happened at th time that we were also getting the grant funding from FEMA and how it all worked together to create situations for Wichita Public Schools,” said Hedrick.

Construction on the safe room at West High School is expected to wrap up by the next school year.

KSN News learned safe rooms can withstand an EF5 tornado and wind speeds of more than 200 mph.

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