By Michaela Marx Wheatley
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The children and parents at Pumpkin Shell School are raising funds to build a storm shelter to keep the more than 60 young students safe in case a tornado were to hit Norman.
There has been much talk over the past year about building storm shelters for public schools. But there also are thousands of kids attending daycares and preschools in Norman every day — and parents are equally eager to keep those youngsters safe.
“What happened last year in Moore and Oklahoma City has changed how even lifelong Oklahomans look at tornado safety,” said Angela Hughes, a Pumpkin Shell parent and the shelter committee chairwoman. “These storms are unpredictable and powerful, and as a mother I just want to make sure our children are safe.”
The Pumpkin Shell School, a preschool that has been teaching 2 to 6-year-olds since 1984 in Norman, is planning on building two underground storm shelters at their location on University Boulevard in May to make sure the students are safe and sound if a tornado touches down in Norman.
The preschool needs to raise $7,000 for the two large shelters by May 7 to be able to confirm their May construction date with the contractor.
The contractor, an Oklahoma-based business, worked to fit them in early in their construction schedule, which is busy this time of the year.
Many parents, teachers and grandchildren have already contributed. Now the Pumpkin Shell School parents hope that the community as well as alumni and friends of the preschool will support them with a donation.
“Every amount helps,” Hughes said. “We are fortunate to have motivated families that can provide financial help for Pumpkin Shell since the state cannot find a funding mechanism. I just wish all daycares and schools had alumni, friends and families that could contribute to these important projects. Achieving this goal is security money can buy.”
Sherri Ward, director of the Pumpkin Shell School, said she is very happy that the parents took initiative.
“We had a tornado touch down close to our school a couple of years ago. It is scary enough when this happens at home, but it is even more scary if you are with somebody else’s kids,” Ward said.
“We have wanted to put a shelter in for a long time, but we simply don’t have that in our preschool budget,” she added.
Ward said that the school staff work very hard to provide quality education to the Pumpkin Shell kids and want to keep tuition affordable for the families by avoiding raising tuition for capital improvements. But the shelters are necessary to keep students and teachers safe.
“Our weather experts and Oklahoma’s warning system are the best in the world, and thankfully we usually get advance warning with enough time to pick up the children at school,” Ward said. “But after last year’s tragedies, officials have actually encouraged people to stay off the roads as storms approach because some who died or were injured were trapped in their cars on roadways — on the way to get their kids.
“As a mom and teacher, I want to make sure all kids are safe, but I also want to make sure the parents that may work in Oklahoma City or further away don’t put themselves in harm’s way. These shelters will provide safety and peace of mind to the teachers and parents and they will keep more than 60 kids safe, not just this year but for many more storm seasons to come.”
Anybody who wants to support the tornado shelter project at Pumpkin Shell School, can send donations to the Pumpkin Shell School, 1037 N. University Blvd. in Norman.
For more information on the Pumpkin Shell School, visit pumpkinshellschool.com. To keep up with the project, like Pumpkin Shell School on Facebook.
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