MIDWEST CITY, Okla. — Oklahoma’s tenth largest school district has a brand new tornado plan for students and staff as we head into the spring of 2014.
Parents in the Mid-Del Public School District may have noticed a letter that went home with your child last week containing details about the new severe weather plan for your child’s school.
The district has been re-vamping the tornado sheltering plan for the past 10 months.
Mid-Del has long been hyper aware of severe weather.
The district had damage to Parkview Elementary May 3, 1999.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason the district was practically empty May 20, 2013.
In the Mid Del School District just eleven percent of students sheltered in their school on May 20.
Schwartz Elementary was vacant after the district activated “early release,” allowing parents to come get their children mid-morning.
“We’re very aware,” said Mid-Del Chief Operations Officer Pam Twidwell. “We have a plan, and I think that’s what it takes. We will not be caught off guard.”
For the spring semester of 2014, Mid-Del is going one step further.
They will close school for severe weather.
Twidwell said, “If we know there is a life-threatening event getting ready to come upon us, it just makes sense. We want to not be open and have our children and our parents and everyone in the safest place they can be and be prepared. We will close school.”
Mid-Del has three elementary saferooms constructed.
There is one more on the way.
The three district saferooms are located at Del City Elementary, the new Midwest City Elementary and the new Soldier Creek Elementary.
At Del City Elementary, the FEMA-rated shelter is big enough to hold double the student population, 900 students and staff, according to the Director of Construction Mike Bryan.
Bryan says they built the saferoom larger than needed because the district plans to bus students to to the saferooms on days when school is in session and the threat of severe weather arises.
Twidwell said, “Our plan and our research shows the bottom line is: We want to put our children in a safe place.”
District officials plan to park a school bus at every school during high-wind risk days.
School buses will transport students to the nearest saferoom if serious severe weather risk pops up.
However, the district will only move students if they have at least an hour before storms are expected to fire.
She said, “It is a difficult call. But, if you have the plan and everyone’s trained, you’re really just executing the plan.”
The district will not transport in the middle of a tornado event.
And so, for the 24 Mid-Del schools without a saferoom, structural engineers have identified the safest place to be, just in case.
The district will not shelter children in a hallway.
According to Mid-Del Director of Security and Safety, Larry Stephenson, the safest place in many schools is an interior bathroom with a serpentine entry.
A recent structural engineer study of several schools in the district showed the s-shaped entries into those bathrooms are a barrier for tornado debris.
All Mid-Del schools now practice monthly tornado drills where teachers load kids into interior bathrooms to be sure they stay safe no matter what.
Stephenson said, “We have one large bathroom stall where one of our elementary school teachers actually said she got 50 kids in!”
With limited resources in the Mid-Del school district, just like every school district around Oklahoma, they are planning to do the very best they can with what they have to protect every child left in their care.