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McAlester middle school receives $1.5 million donation to add safe rooms to campus

Posted at 5:53 PM, Sep 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-11 18:53:39-04

MCALESTER, Okla. -- Teachers at Puterbaugh Middle School are feeling relief after the Puterbaugh Foundation donated $1.5 million this week.

The money will go towards four safe rooms, or re-enforced classrooms that can protect students during a storm.

"You're trying to formulate a plan. You know in the back of your mind: these doors are here, these windows are here, this has the potential of falling here... so it's really not that safe," special education teacher Margie Mcelhany said.

Currently tornado drills have students crouching against lockers and covering their heads until they get the "all clear." Teachers say the added classrooms will add a new level of safety.

"We couldn't afford this on our own. There's no possible way. It's just encouraging to see that people care about education, people are wanting to take care of our kids, and it's just huge for our staff to know that there are people out there and organizations out there that do this kind of thing," superintendent Randy Hughes said.

The four classrooms will have eight inches of concrete in the walls and ceiling, with the ability to withstand an EF5 tornado. It will also add space to a school where teachers said they're bursting at the seams.

"You have to have places for these students to sit and our tables are filling up quickly. Our desks are filling up quickly. We don't have room to bring more desks in and our classes are growing and growing so we need more teachers and more class space so we can get them back to a more manageable size," Mcelhany said.

The safe rooms can hold up to 550 students, which gives this campus room to grow in the year ahead.

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