The Norman Transcript

June 11, 2013

School addresses tornado aftermath

By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

MOORE — As the city of Moore moves ahead with recovery and cleanup, the Moore Public Schools Board of Education made its own small return to normalcy with the first regular meeting since the May 20 tornado.

The board had two emergency meetings and a special meeting each week following the tornado that claimed the lives of seven MPS students at Plaza Towers Elementary and destroyed multiple facilities and vehicles across the district.

“I have a very long list of people to thank that I cannot say here, but we hope to have an official thank-you/recognition event for the many volunteers that have helped us in the last two to three weeks to get business back to normal,” Superintendent Susan Pierce said. “I didn’t want to let the evening pass without mentioning this.”

The board had several routine items pertaining to personnel issues, but the meeting was dominated by information and action items pertaining to tornado aftermath.

An impassioned public comment by the grandmother of a Broadmoore Elementary student decried the Broadmoore staff and district administrators for allegedly locking parents out of the school when they arrived to collect their children during the May 20 tornado.

“I can’t, for the life of me, understand why you would deny parents access to that school and to their children. My granddaughter and son-in-law live four blocks from the school and have a cellar. You cannot make me believe she was safer above ground in the school building than in her parents’ cellar with her daddy to comfort her,” the grandmother said. “You made it less safe for the children and their parents in this case ... I hope you write a policy to make sure this never happens again.”

Board members and Pierce declined to comment.

Assistant Superintendents Robert Romines and Jeff Horn gave detailed updates on the damaged schools’ cleanup and recovery efforts, with Horn addressing specific concerns related to reconstruction and insurance.

“The (Administrative Services Center) will be the biggest challenge, since we have to determine what damages were from the May 20 storm and what were from the May 31 storm, for insurance claims,” Horn said.

Among items on the board’s agenda were three items to approve architectural and construction contractors for Highland East Junior High, Plaza Towers and Briarwood Elementary schools.

“The district has received about $150,000 in cash donations to our tornado relief effort,” Romines said. “A relief group out of New York has charged us with finding 2,000 families who lost their homes or sustained serious damage and this group will return in August with $1,000 gift cards for each family.”

Romines said collaboration with FEMA has been ongoing, and project worksheets are now in place for Plaza Towers and Briarwood Elementary schools for construction and content.

“We’re well on our way,” Romines said. “Each day gets a little bit easier.”

The next meeting of the Moore Public School board will be 6 p.m. June 25.