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OKC School Board considering saferoom for Chavez Elementary

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City Public Schools board is considering building a saferoom in the district's largest elementary school with leftover MAPS For Kids funds.

A recent NewsChannel 4 investigation revealed the district's lack of consideration for safe rooms in new school construction.

The district has 74 school sites and only five safe rooms.

The district hasn't built a safe room for since 2004.

In fact, in the past five years, they district has constructed 30 brand new elementary gymnasiums and not one of the gyms has a reinforced safe area for students.

The school board discussed the possibility of adding a saferoom gymnasium to Cesar Chavez Elementary during a regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday night.

The building is new and, according to principal Dr. Laura Morris, already stretched to capacity with 940 students in attendance.

Morris is fully supportive of the district plan to add a saferoom gymnasium to the campus.

Chavez has been open for three years.

It's one of two elementaries built with MAPS For Kids funding but the city built it without a saferoom.

There is no safe place for the students who come here every day.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools school board is now considering building a new gymnasium for Chavez, and this time, the district wants to build the gym with a saferoom.

"The quicker the better in my opinion," school board member Ron Millican said. 

If the school board approves the measure, Cesar Chavez will be the first Oklahoma City Public School building to get a safe room since 2004.

It has been almost 10 years since this district has paid to build a safe place for students during a storm.

District officials estimate the added cost for a gym saferoom could be as little as 20 percent.

There has been no word whether the district will ask for FEMA grant money, although it's not likely considering the potential for a construction delay.

Funding for the $2 million facility will come from leftover MAPS For Kids money.

Chavez would be the sixth Oklahoma City Public School building to be equipped with a saferoom.

The following five school buildings have saferooms paid for by MAPS For Kids:
- Douglass
- U.S. Grant
- John Marshall
- Martin Luther King Elementary
- Wheeler Elementary.

The school board will vote on the Chavez gymnasium saferoom in two weeks.

If approved, the issue will go before the city council for a vote because MAPS money is involved.

School administrators could start the bid process as early as Nov. 1.

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