OOLOGAH, Okla. -- A school district is preparing for the start of severe weather season by opening newly built storm shelters to students, staff members and the community.
Voters approved two bonds in April 2015 that included funding to build two storm shelters at Oologah-Talala Schools. The district opened those new facilities for the first time last week. Administrators worked with local law enforcement and emergency management officials to provide a safe place for more than just the students to go.
"This building is engineered to withstand 250 mile per hour wind gusts," Superintendent Max Tanner said. "Hopefully, we'll never have to use this building for our students or even the community, but at least we have a nice facility in case we have a storm."
Crews added one storm shelter onto the Lower Elementary building, which can house 1,250 students. The other shelter was built near the entrance to campus by the high school, and it can hold 1,500 people.
Tanner said the facilities should provide peace of mind to many in the community who remember when a tornado struck in 1991 and destroyed half the campus.
"For parents they can send their children to school and know that there's somewhere safe they can go during the school day," Tanner said.
Emergency management officials plan to open the shelters during weekends or on evenings when the need should arise. That's comforting to Denise Major, who works in Oologah and has three grandchildren enrolled in the school district.
"We came up on something that happened last year with the weather, and we were all talking about where we were going to go," Major said. "Now we've got that facility right down the road, a safe place to be."
The superintendent also said the district held drills last week so that students and teachers could practice getting to and from the shelters.
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