KSN Investigates: Most Andover schools without storm shelters

Andover High School. (KSN file photo)

ANDOVER, Kan. (KSNW) – It was 25 years ago this week when a powerful tornado tore through south central Kansas, laying waste to much of the town of Andover.

By the time the F-5 tornado was done, it left 17 people dead and destroyed dozens of homes and businesses.

Because of Andover’s history, KSN is asking why a majority of Andover’s public schools still don’t have a storm shelter on their campuses.

Andover school district officials say the town’s history is an underlying factor in all their safety decisions. But, even as the town marked the 25th anniversary of that deadly storm, schools like Andover Central High and Andover Middle School are just two of the seven school buildings in the district that don’t have FEMA-certified storm shelters.

“I’m really surprised, actually,” said Andover parent, Amy Bergman. “I think [in] this day and age, it’s actually shocking to me that there wouldn’t be code, that it’s just automatic when schools are built that they wouldn’t automatically have storm shelters, especially being in Tornado Alley.”

“I didn’t know that many schools were lacking storm shelters,” said Sandy Jones, another parent.

But, Andover school district spokesperson Nicole Gibbs said the district’s students are safe.

“We have areas that the district has designated as ‘safe areas’ in case of a storm of any nature,” said Gibbs.

Those ‘safe areas,’ along with at least three tornado drills every year at each school, and making sure students understand their safety plans, gives the district confidence.

“We are confident that we feel that they would be safe in our buildings in a situation that may arise,” Gibbs said. “We are always prepared to transport to a different building that may have a FEMA shelter,” said Gibbs.

The school district is looking forward.

“We have continually explored what options might be to have shelters in place.”

But, that may not be enough for one parent.

“I’d rather them be with me, regardless if they’re in a situation like that,” said Sandy Jones.

Andover school officials tell KSN they will do everything they can to keep their students safe in all severe weather. However, they say if a parent wants to pick up their student from school, the district won’t prevent that from happening.

The district currently is participating in a comprehensive facility study which could explore adding FEMA shelters to schools in the future. However, right now they say that’s only a study.

For more information about Andover Public Schools, visit their website. 

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