Small town builds new high school with saferoom

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LUTHER, Okla. -- Luther is a sleepy farm town along Route 66 with clean air and small schools.

There are about 1,200 residents; the high school student population is approximately 270.

It is a small town, with an extra dose of wisdom in planning for keeping their community safe.

May 19, the day before the big Moore tornado, an EF-4 grazed their borders and rattled their nerves.

The damage in town was minimal compared to their neighbors a few miles away, and compared to what would come 24 hours later.

Superintendent Sheldon Buxton is determined to protect the families whose kids spend their days in his district. 

"In disaster situations I've seen parents having to be separated from their children. That's pretty tough in an emergency situation," said Buxton.

So, when Luther administrators started talking about a new high school for their growing student population, a saferoom was part of the plan from the very beginning.

The $10 million school will be state-of-the-art in every way.

There is no FEMA saferoom funding involved in the Luther project; it was paid for with a bond issue.

CMS Willowbrook is the company building the school.

They are experts in school saferoom construction.

"We build a lot of schools and almost every project has a saferoom of some sort," said Willowbrook President, Cary Dehart.

The Luther High School saferoom will actually be three classrooms.

The shell is has been constructed, the interior walls aren't yet in place.

"They'll be a lot safer here than anywhere else," said site superintendent Mitch White. "That's why it's money well spent. We use this room every day."

According to CMS Willowbrook, a FEMA-rated saferoom can cost as little as $50,000 per classroom.

In some cases, they say, that saferoom upgrade is one percent of the project budget.

"For a typical interior classroom, If it was designed to be a saferoom, $50,000 might be a good number. It might be as low as $30,000," Dehart said.

According to the experts, the secret to saferooms isn't cost; it's planning and priorities.

There are districts in the Oklahoma City metro that continue to build without consideration for a saferoom, but it seems they are the exception not the rule.

There are 241 schools in 120 Oklahoma districts which have been saferooms in the past 10 to 15 years.

Not every district has new construction, but when they do, it seems many are planning and paying for safety.

Many school districts have decided they cannot afford not to.

In addition to the new Luther High School saferoom, the district has two other safe areas for students.

The elementary school and the current high school, which will be used as a middle school starting next year, both have basements with reinforced concrete ceilings.

Here's a list of Oklahoma school districts with FEMA-funded and FEMA-rated saferooms:

Agra Schools, Atoka Schools, Bethany Public Schools, Binger-Oney Public Schools, Boynton-Moton Schools, Briggs Schools, Brushy Schools, Byng Public Schools, Calera Public Schools, Carney Schools, Marlow Schools, Sallisaw Schools, Checotah Schools, Chouteau Schools, Cleveland Schools, Colbert Schools, Commerce Schools, Cordell Public Schools, Cottonwood Public Schools, Darlington Public Schools, Deer Creek Schools, Dickson Schools, Dustin Schools, Edmond Schools, Elmore Schools, Empire School District, Fairland Schools, Glover Schools, Harmony Schools, Heavener Schools, Hodgen Public School District, Holdenville Public Schools, How Schools, Jones Public Schools, Lane Public Schools, Latta Public Schools, Lost City Schools, Maple Schools, McCloud Public Schools, Middleberg Schools, Morris Schools, Moss Schools, Mounds Public Schools, Muskogee Public Schools, Mustang Public Schools, Newcastle Public Schools, Norman Public Schools, Oakdale School, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Pioneer Schools, Porum Schools, Poteau Schools, Riverside School, Rock Creek Public Schools, Silo Public Schools, Spiro Public Schools, Stringtown Schools, St. John's Lutehran School, Strother School, Sulpher Public Schools, Tonkawa Public Schools, Tulsa Schools, Tushka Schools, Velma-Alma Schools, Wapanucka Public Schools, Warner Public Schools, Weatherford Public Schools, Webbers Falls Schools, Wetumka Public Schools, Wilson Public Schools, Wynewood Public Schools.