City councilors in Tulsa planned to begin discussions today on a proposed change to the city’s building code that would require storm shelters in new school construction.
Building storm shelters in schools has become a major statewide and local issue after the May 20 tornado that killed seven children in a Moore elementary school.
One group is pushing for a $500 million bond issue to pay the shelters, while Gov. Mary Fallin is backing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow every school district to pursue a one-time increase in bonding capacity to fund upgrades like storm shelters.
Tulsa City Councilor G.T. Bynum said the discussion is inspired by a similar plan in the works in Oklahoma City.
“I heard about that and thought, just because we haven’t had a tragedy in Tulsa recently like they had doesn’t mean we should ignore the issue and not focus on it,” he said. “I kind of wanted us to follow (Oklahoma City’s) example and start that discussion.”
According to the Tulsa World, the Oklahoma City Council is set to vote Feb. 18 on a plan that would require safe rooms in new school construction. The initial proposal would apply to schools and day-care centers with at least six children.
Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard said Tuesday that he would welcome any discussion that would help create a safer environment for students.
“The safety of our students should be of paramount concern to all of us,” he said.
Ballard said his district has emergency plans in place for disasters such as those faced in Moore.
“We do have safety considerations built into our emergency plans,” he said. “We do know the status of all of our buildings, and we know what we would do in the event of that kind of emergency.”