The Sinking Fund Levy allows each school district to borrow money if the bond is approved with a 60 percent, or super majority, vote. Even with super majority approval, the amount that can be levied through such a bond is limited and cannot exceed 10 percent of the school district’s total assessed valuation. For some districts, that means choosing between space for basic classrooms and safety features such as a safe room.
Norman is in a better position than many schools regarding its bonding capacity, but the law hurts many schools. Siano thinks a community should be able to decide how much it is willing to pay in property taxes to build local schools.
Regarding safety and security, Brown and Siano said staying safe is about more than taking shelter. Communication is key. In severe weather, that means having 2-way radios in addition to cell phones. School administrators must stay tuned to the weather radio and make sound decisions about whether to dismiss students early or shelter them within the school facility rather than risk buses on the road when a storm hits.
“Parents need to make decisions about their kids, but we will make a safe environment,” Siano said.
Planning is also vitally important.
“It’s about preparation,” Siano said.
Each facility is different and must be assessed to determine the safest measures during severe weather. In Norman, school plans for severe weather are reviewed by professionals at Weather Decision Technology.
“We submitted all of our school plans,” Brown said.
Norman is certified as a storm ready district and follows specific protocols during severe weather events. Moore also had protocols in place and those procedures undoubtedly saved lives, said Siano.
“Something worked right in the Moore schools,” Siano said of the high number of survivors in light of the extreme damage suffered by three Moore schools. “Something worked right. Could it have been better?”
Siano said the answer to that question is always, “yes,” but anyone looking at the damage — particularly to Plaza Towers and Briarwood elementary schools — is likely to be amazed anyone survived.
And yet, Brown said, most of the people sheltering in those schools did survive without serious injury.