IN YOUR CORNER: Small school fights for storm shelter

In Your Corner

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A local school turns to In Your Corner, hoping to keep their kids safe from storm season.

Their plans were initially stopped by the city, but turns out good news was brewing behind the scenes.

It’s a unique education nestled in southwest Oklahoma City. In addition to math and science, kiddos are introduced to life on the farm.

“We have a different approach to learning,” said Erin Dulle, head of Redbud Farm and Christian School. “Teaching them chores and responsibility – they have to go out and feed and water the animals. They have to water the gardens, pick all the vegetables.”

Redbud is located off of Southwest 149th, an area that’s been the target of Mother Nature in severe weather season’s past.

Before it was a school, the plot of land just missed being hit by the deadly May 20, 2013, twister.

Erin was stuck in traffic, desperately trying to pick up her own kids that day.

“It damaged a lot of the houses around us, damaged our building, thank goodness didn’t take it out,” she said. “I just remember driving to their school that day. Just crying the whole way cause I wasn’t sure if [my kids] would be there. I never want to go through that, or have a parent go through that.”

So as soon as Redbud opened their doors two years ago, finding funding for a shelter was top of mind.

After saving every penny they could, the school found a local company to build an above ground shelter for $20,000.

Their permit, though, was denied by Oklahoma City officials.

“My heart just dropped,” said Erin. “I get emotional about it because I want to keep my kids safe.”

Reasons given by the city included a lack of size and a lack of facilities in the shelter.

The city called for a much larger structure with at least two different bathrooms.

But those numbers were based off Redbud’s school occupancy load, not daily attendance.

Erin says estimates for this new shelter were around $150,000.

“We don’t get funding from the government, bond issues, it all comes from tuition,” said Erin. “It hurts my heart. I’m scared, I’m nervous.”

But those regulations are in place for a reason, with your safety in mind, says the city.

“The city does strive to protect human life,” said Scott Wise, Unit Operations Supervisor with Oklahoma City. “The storm shelter itself would need to be designed according to ICC 500 guidelines, and perhaps in addition to the FEMA guidelines we have – pretty rigorous standards as far as occupant load, impact resistance, and ventilation and facilities.”

There is some good news, though, for Redbud.

On further review from the city’s legal department, it seems the school may be in luck.

“Speaking with our legal team, we’ve determined the legal interpretation of that code supplement is such that this structure, being a storm shelter, does not incorporate an educational use,” said Scott. “As such, we’re able to approve it and allow them to proceed.”

The school has actually found a second vendor, who’s able to build a slighly larger shelter for a similar price.

Many buildings housing emergency personnel and larger schools in Oklahoma City still do fall under ICC-500 requirements.

For more info on those requirements, click here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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