Metro schools have built 99 tornado safe rooms since 2013. Does your child’s school have a shelter?

MOORE, Okla. - It has been five years since the Moore tornado, the day the conversation about school safety changed dramatically.

Before May 20, 2013, many Oklahomans thought tornadoes would never hit during school hours.

Many families thought their kids would be safe in their school building.

The shock of that day pummeled Oklahoma parents like debris from the EF-5.

Seven 3rd graders died in their school.

It was a first for us; a heart-stopping wake-up call.

In the wake of that storm, the conversation started to change.

Oklahoma schools looked to Joplin, Missouri.

In 2013, Joplin Public Schools were re-building with safe rooms after a deadly EF-5 in 2011.

We looked to the parents of those poor children who died at Plaza Towers Elementary School.

The truth is, everyone wants safe rooms in schools.

Everyone wants a safe place for children in a storm.

The catch has always been how to pay for it - for expensive FEMA-rated safe room upgrades.

In Oklahoma, we have found a way.

"It's just. It's important," said Moore Superintendent, Dr. Robert Romines. "I get that 100 percent."

In Moore, there were just two safe rooms in the district in 2013.

In the past five years, they've built two dozen more.

"We made a lot of promises and commitment to make that happen," Dr. Romines said. "We've done it. So, I'm very proud."

In Moore, the district used FEMA grants, insurance money from damaged school buildings, donations which came in from around the world following the tornado and a $106 million bond issue passed in 2015.

The district has completed construction on all but nine safe room projects.

They expect to be 100% covered by next year.

In Edmond and Deer Creek Public Schools, administrators are committed to building safe rooms in every new school building.

Additionally, since 2013, both districts have added safe rooms in older school buildings so all students have the same protection at school.

In the state's largest school district with 74 schools, Oklahoma City Public Schools, there were only five safe rooms in 2013.

Those shelters were built with FEMA mitigation grants following the May 3, 1999, tornado.

OKCPS built those five safe rooms in 2004 and then stopped building safe rooms in the district.

On the day of the May 20 tornado, Oklahoma City Public Schools hadn't built a safe room in a decade.

In fact, the district had started construction on new gymnasiums, without a safe room component in an effort to save money.

Public outcry caused the school board to reverse course.

Nichols Hills Elementary got the first safe room in the district.

Since then, 27 more elementary schools' gyms have been built as large safe rooms.

Three more will be complete by the end of the year.

Putnam City had zero safe rooms in 2013.

Since the Moore tornado, the district has added three safe rooms at elementary schools and a middle school safe room that's nearly complete.

The district is adding a safe room locker room to the gym at PC High School.

With 27 schools in the district, they've got a long way to go.

So, Putnam City Public Schools took a close look at what else they could do to protect students.

Engineers identified the safest place in every building.

In two elementary schools, the district has added FEMA-rated doors and windows to harden the structure.

"They shoot two-by-fours that weigh 15 pounds at 250 miles an hour, and if they don't break, they're strong enough to withstand winds of up to 250 mph," said Putnam City spokesperson, Steve Lindley. "There is value in hardening schools and hardening buildings."

Since the Moore tornado, almost every school district in the metro has added at least one safe room.

Several small school districts like Crooked Oak Schools, Luther Public Schools and Deer Creek Public Schools now have safe rooms in every building.

Big districts have made progress, too.

There are 28 new safe rooms in Oklahoma City Public Schools, 24 in Moore Public Schools, 13 in Edmond Public Schools, five in Mid-Del Public Schools, four in Norman Public Schools, three in Putnam City Public Schools and two in Mustang Public Schools.

El Reno Public Schools had zero safe rooms in 2013.

Today, the district has a FEMA-rated shelter for every student.

El Reno actually failed to pass a bond issue for schools in 2012.

In 2013, the May 31 tornado came dangerously close to their district.

So, school officials worked with city officials to craft a new bond issue with a dual purpose: shelters for students and for the community so everyone in El Reno has a safe place to go.

"We're very fortunate that we had the city behind us on this whole thing," said Rodger Roblyer, the Director of Safety for El Reno Public Schools. "I'm so in debt to our city for making this possible."

The El Reno safe rooms are unlike almost all of the other safe rooms around town.

They are built mostly underground, unfurnished and open to the entire community.

El Reno built their shelters in multiple locations with easy access for students at school.

Roblyer said the entire district population can get from the classroom to the safe room in six minutes.

"Our parents feel like their kids are very safe, and our community feels like they have a place that they can go," Roblyer said. "I make sure that they're open whenever we have a situation that merits opening."

Once again, Oklahomans have proven we learned from the horror of that day.

Those 3rd graders did not die in vain.

Oklahoma school districts are building safer schools because they know what can happen if they don't.

Here's a comprehensive list of school shelters in the OKC metro area, provided by each school district, along with the year each was constructed:

Oklahoma City Public Schools (28 safe rooms out of 78 school sites)

  • Nichols Hills Elementary (2016)
  • Edwards Elementary (2016)
  • Heronville Elementary (2016)
  • Eugene Field Elementary (2016)
  • Prairie Queen Elementary (2016)
  • Filmore Elementary (2016)
  • Rockwood Elementary (2016)
  • Britton Elementary (2017)
  • Thelma Parks Elementary (2017)
  • Willow Brook Elementary (2017)
  • Arthur Elementary (2017)
  • Lee Elementary (2017)
  • Linwood Elementary (2017)
  • Sequoyah Elementary (2017)
  • Ridgeview Elementary (2017)
  • Hawthorne Elementary (2017)
  • North Highland Elementary (2017)
  • Cleveland Elementary (2017)
  • Rancho Village Elementary (2017)
  • Shidler Elementary (2017)
  • Quail Creek Elementary (2017)
  • Western Village Elementary (2017)
  • Caesar Chavez Elementary (2018)
  • Martin Luther King Elementary (2004)
  • Douglass High School (2004)
  • U.S. Grant High School (2004)
  • Wheeler Elementary (2004)
  • John Marshall High School (2004)

*3 additional safe rooms at Edgemere Elementary, Spencer Elementary and Green Pastures Elementary are expected to open by the end of 2018.

**A safe room at Wilson Elementary is currently in the design phase.

Moore Public Schools (24 safe rooms out of 35 school sites)

  • Briarwood Elementary (2014)
  • Broadmore Elementary (2017)
  • Bryant Elementary (2017)
  • Central Elementary (2015)
  • Earlywine Elementary (2015)
  • Eastlake Elementary (2017)
  • Fairview Elementary (2016)
  • Fisher Elementary (2017)
  • Kelley Elementary (2000)
  • Kingsgate Elementary (2018)
  • Northmoor Elementary (2016)
  • Plaza Towers Elementary (2014)
  • Sky Ranch Elementary (2017)
  • Southlake Elementary (2014)
  • Southgate-Rippetoe Elementary (2016)
  • Timber Creek Elementary (2015)
  • Winding Creek Elementary (2017)
  • Brink Junior High School (2017)
  • Central Junior High School (2015)
  • Highland East Junior High School (2015)
  • Highland West Junior High School (2017)
  • Moore West Junior High (2017)
  • Southridge High School (2015)
  • Moore High School (2016)
  • Westmoore High School (2001)

*9 additional safe rooms are in progress, paid for in a recent bond issue. MPS expects to have every school site protected by March 2019. 

Edmond Public Schools (18 safe rooms/shelter out of 28 school sites)

  • Angie Debo Elementary (unknown)
  • Centennial Elementary (2007)
  • Clegern Elementary (2016)
  • Charles Haskell Elementary (2018)
  • Clyde Howell Elementary (2016)
  • Frontier Elementary (2014)
  • Heritage Elementary (2016)
  • Ida Freeman Elementary (2017)
  • John Ross Elementary (2017)
  • Northern Hills Elementary (2017)
  • Orvis Risner Elementary (2017)
  • Russell Dougherty Elementary (2016)
  • Sunset Elementary (2017)
  • Washington Irving Elementary (1992)
  • Westfield Elementary (2008)
  • Cheyenne Middle School (1999)
  • Cimarron Middle School (2018)
  • Heartland Middle School (2016)
  • Boulevard Academy (basement)

*10 additional safe rooms are in progress in EPS, paid for by a recent bond issue. The district expects to have every school site protected by 2020.

Deer Creek Public Schools (8 safe rooms out of 8 sites)

  • Deer Creek High School (2018)
  • Spring Creek Elementary (2013)
  • Grove Valley Elementary (2009)
  • Deer Creek Middle School (2011)
  • Rose Union Elementary (2006)
  • Deer Creek Elementary (2018)
  • Prairie Vale Elementary (2018)
  • Deer Creek Intermediate (2007)

Mid-Del Public Schools (5 safe rooms out of 24 school sites)

  • Del City Elementary (2013)
  • Midwest City Elementary (2014)
  • Parkview Elementary (2017)
  • Soldier Creek Elementary (2014)
  • Mid-Del Technology Center (2016)

*Recently passed bond issue includes construction of safe rooms at Pleasant Hill Elementary, Schwartz Elementary, Carl Albert Middle School, Kerr Middle School and Monroney Middle School.

**Mid-Del Schools also has a plan in place to transport students to THS if time allows.

Mustang Public Schools (5 safe rooms out of 13 school sites)

  • Mustang Creek Elementary (2010)
  • Mustang Valley Elementary (2008)
  • Prairie View Elementary (2014)
  • Mustang Education Center (2014)
  • Centennial Elementary (2011)

*Canyon Ridge Intermediate has "hardened areas" with vaults to cover windows. (2013)

El Reno Public Schools (5 safe rooms/shelters out of 5 school sites)

  • El Reno High School (underground community shelter, 2014)
  • Etta Dale Junior High (underground community shelter, 2014)
  • Hillcrest Elementary (underground community shelter, 2014)
  • Rose Witcher Elementary (2014)
  • Lincoln Learning Center (underground community shelter, 2014)
  • Roblyer Middle School (underground community shelter, 2014)
  • Discovery Learning Center (underground community shelter, 2014)

*Community shelters are not open to the public during school hours.

Harrah Public Schools (5 safe rooms out of 5 sites)

  • Harrah High School
  • Harrah Middle School
  • Russell Babb Elementary
  • Clara Reynolds Elementary
  • Virginia Smith Elementary

Norman Public Schools (4 safe rooms out of 25 school sites)

  • Lincoln Elementary (2017)
  • Jackson Elementary (2017)
  • Whittier Middle School (2017)
  • Irving Middle School (2017)

Shawnee Public Schools (4 safe rooms out of 8 school sites)

  • Shawnee Early Childhood Center (2006)
  • Horace Mann Elementary (2017)
  • Sequoyah Elementary (2017)
  • Shawnee Middle School (2000)

*Safe room at Shawnee High School and Jefferson Elementary expected to be complete in 2019.

**Will Rogers Elementary safe room expected to be complete in 2020.

Crooked Oak Public Schools (3 safe rooms out of 3 school sites)

  • Crooked Oak Elementary (2015)
  • Crooked Oak Middle School (2015)
  • Crooked Oak High School (2015)

Putnam City Public Schools (3 safe rooms out of 27 school sites)

  • Lake Park Elementary (2016)
  • Windsor Hills Elementary (2016)
  • Hilldale Elementary (2016)

*PCS is nearing completion of 2 safe rooms at Cooper Middle School and Putnam City High School.

**Construction on 5 safe rooms at Ralph Downs Elementary, Capps Middle School, Putnam City North HS and Putnam City West HS is expected to be complete by 2020.

***PCS spent $380,000 to "harden" safe areas inside Rollingwood Elementary and Coronado Heights Elementary in 2015.

Bethany Public Schools (3 safe rooms out of 4 school sites)

  • Bethany Early Childhoods Center (2012)
  • Bethany Elementary (2003)
  • Bethany Middle School (2003)

Blanchard Public Schools (3 shelters out of 4 school sites)

  • Blanchard Elementary School (2003)
  • Blanchard Intermediate/Middle School (underground shelter)
  • Blanchard High School (2010)

Bridge Creek Public Schools (3 safe rooms out of 3 school sites)

  • Bridge Creek Early Childhood Center (2003)
  • Bridge Creek Middle School (2017)
  • Bridge Creek High School (2010)

Jones Public Schools (3 safe rooms out of 3 school sites)

  • Jones Elementary (2006)
  • Jones Middle School (2007)
  • Jones High School (2010)

Luther Public Schools (3 safe places out of 3 school sites) 

  • Luther High School (2014)
  • Luther Middle School (underground)
  • Luther Elementary (basement)

Newcastle Public Schools (3 safe rooms out of 4 school sites)

  • Newcastle Early Childhood Center
  • Newcastle Middle School
  • Newcastle High School

*Newcastle Elementary has a community shelter next door where students have first priority.

Oakdale Public Schools (1 safe room out of 1 school site)

  • Oakdale School (2013)

Tuttle Public Schools (1 safe room out of 5 school sites)

  • Tuttle High School (2017)

*Tuttle Schools has a plan in place to transport students to THS if time allows.

Minco Public Schools (1 safe room out of 3 school sites)

  • Minco High School (2015)

*2 safe rooms at Minco Middle School and Minco Elementary School are under construction, expected to open in 2020 

Piedmont Public Schools (1 safe room out of 7 school sites)

  • Piedmont Intermediate (2012)

*FEMA safe rooms are planned for Piedmont High School, Piedmont Elementary, Northwood Elementary & Piedmont Early Childhood Center.

**Students at Piedmont Middle School shelter under gym bleachers.

Guthrie Public Schools (7 school sites)

  • Charter Oak Elementary (2018)

*This safe room is under construction, expected to open in the Fall.