Parents with children headed back to school in Bixby can rest assured their students are stepping into the classroom a little safer this year.
Northeast Elementary and Intermediate will open its doors for its inaugural school year Aug. 20, and with the new year comes security features unique to others in Green Country – safe rooms built into six of the school's classrooms.
"It is reinforced; it has a steel door. It also has window coverings that roll down and lock into place in the event that it needed to be used in the case of a tornado," said principal Jamie Milligan. "Anything that you think about where you would need to get the children in a concentrated area and make sure they were in a reinforced area would be ideal here with these six rooms for these children."
Northeast is one of several campuses across Bixby Public Schools to have this capability. Dr. Kyle Wood, BPS superintendent, said district policy requires all new construction to have safe rooms. This includes North Elementary, North Intermediate, Bixby Middle School and Bixby Ninth Grade Center, which will open for the 2014-15 school year.
And in light, of tragedies over the past year, like Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. or Plaza Towers in Moore, Okla., Milligan said she is thankful for the district's foresight to begin building the safe rooms several years ago.
"Of course, this was being thought about and coming together long before any of the tragedies that have taken place over the last few months, so I am very, very happy to a part of such a great school district that thinks about the safety of the children in this manner," Milligan said.
The school building was built to accommodate 900 children, and about 500 students are enrolled so far, Milligan said. Through drills and instruction for teachers and students, she believes everyone will be prepared, in the event of an emergency.
"It gives them a little bit of a calming effect that they know they have a place to go if something were to happen. And certainly that makes all cringe to think that that's a possibility, but in the world we live in, it is. It makes the parents breathe a little sigh of relief to know they have a place like this to send their children."
With this security measure in place, teachers and staff can focus on educating each student.
"We know we have an obligation to teach these children and we take that very seriously, but the children have to be able to be safe to do that," Milligan said.