Metro district builds saferoom gym for students, staff, families

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- After being hit by tornadoes twice in the past 15 years, the Oakdale School District is re-building with purpose.

Dozens of Oklahoma school districts have funded school safe rooms with FEMA grant money.

Here's a list of every FEMA-funded school safe room in Oklahoma.

Oakdale district did it without the assistance of federal dollars.

The district was hit by an F-2 June 13, 1998 and then again by an EF-4 May 9, 2003.

Oakdale schools have a perspective others don't according to district superintendent Kim Lanier.

The school's secondary gym was just completed earlier this year.

The gym was built with money from a $4.9 million bond issue, passed to build the safe room gym and 14,000 square feet of classroom space.

"It made sense if we're trying to get 600 kids in a spot to contain them to have supervision over them," she said. "It's easier to do that in a larger space than smaller space."

The shell is built to FEMA EF-5 standards; it can withstand 250 mph winds.

"We wanted the core, the structure itself, to meet FEMA standards as much as possible," Lanier said.

The doors do not meet FEMA safe room standards, which was intentional for the district since they had no plans to apply for FEMA grant dollars.

"If you can build to FEMA standards, great," she said. "If you can build a safer room, thumbs up. Whatever you can do with what you have."

LWPD Architects designed the Oakdale safe room gym.

They have designed dozens of safe room facilities around the state.

"It's being done all the time," LWPD architect Jeff Wegener said. "It needs to be seriously considered. If the project is budgeted properly at the beginning, safe rooms are fairly straight forward. They're not overly complicated. They can be worked into most budgets."

According to LWPD, the cost to upgrade from standard construction to EF-5 safe room construction is about 15 percent depending on the scope and quality of the project.

Here are some additional News Channel 4 reports about buildings safer schools:

Joplin Schools build FEMA saferooms in every school building after 2011 tornado.

OKC Schools plans to build saferoom in district's largest elementary school.

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