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Oklahoma school district finds unique way to shelter students from storms

CHICKASHA, Okla. – Students in Chickasha helped raise money so that they could get a storm shelter for their school.

Friend School, just east of Chickasha, sits in a rural area.

The school has about 225 kids.

Three years ago, a tornado missed the school by about 200 yards.

Right now, their severe weather plan involves leaving the school.

Kindergarten teacher, Jennifer Jinks, said, “Our first time, when I was told to load the bus and go across the road, when they said this is our regular practice for storm safety, I went, get on a bus?”

They load up the entire school and drive across the street to the Baptist Church’s basement.

Superintendent, Alton Rawlins, said “We have to go across the road which is a 10 minute process to the baptist church.”

Rawlins knew there had to be a better option.

He has been looking into storm shelters for years, but could not find anything affordable until now.

Rawlins says the solution he found should cost about $50,000.

Four huge shipping containers weighting 8,000 pounds each are being welded together and will be reinforced with concrete and dirt berms, complete with FEMA approved doors.

“We’re welding it to plates that we set in the footing every 4 foot, so the chances of it getting lifted out of the ground are, well FEMA’s happy. If they’re happy, I’m happy,” said Rawlins.

Students helped pitch in to make this project possible.

Students raised half of the money for the storm shelter by doing a walk-a-thon.

The district got the other half through a grant from a group called “Shelter Oklahoma Schools.”

Kindergarten teacher, Janet Howard, is looking forward to the shelter being finished.

Howard said, “It can’t be built fast enough. We’re nervous every time a storm comes over.”

Rawlins said they are hoping to have the project finished by this year, but are making sure everything is just right.