NORMAN — Editor’s Note: This is the second story in a week-long series focusing on storm shelters
A $200 per child investment could put tornado safe rooms in future Oklahoma schools. That $200 represents the extra cost — extrapolated over the number of children, teachers and staff protected — to build tornado safe classrooms in new school construction based on the Reagan Elementary model.
Safe rooms that double as classrooms at Norman’s newest elementary cost about $20,000 more per room than a traditional classroom.
“That’s not retrofit, that’s from the ground up,” said NPS Assistant Superintendent Roger Brown.
The school has six safe rooms, each of which will hold at least 100 children, teachers and staff. For that extra $120,000 total investment, children have immediate access to tornado shelters.
The shelters are multipurpose, serving as classrooms as well as offering protection if an intruder enters the school. Brown said the cost for a tornado shelter varies from project to project and retrofitting is usually more costly than including tornado safe rooms in new construction.
A key component in the design of Reagan is the proximity of the safe rooms, allowing children quick access in case of imminent danger.
“In an emergency, distance is key,” said NPS Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano.
Reagan is built like a hexagon with six pods housing various grade levels. Each pod has regular classrooms in a semi-circle around a central classroom. That central classroom is also the safe room and has FEMA approved doors, a bathroom and sink with a water faucet. The second FEMA approved door allows for an exit if one door is blocked.
Reinforced concrete walls, ceiling, and floor keep children, teachers and school staff safe in the windowless room at wind speeds up to 250 miles per hour.
The cost of a regular classroom in Reagan is $137,000. The cost of those specially designed classrooms doubling as tornado shelters is $157,000 each.