The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 23, 2013

Our View: Safer schools

The Joplin Globe

— Being able to see for ourselves what would have happened to our children had they been standing in the main hall of their schools during the May 22, 2011, tornado had a profound effect on our understanding of safe schools.

School video from East Middle School from that horrible Sunday shows the glass and debris flying through an area where children easily could have been standing if school had been in session when the tornado hit.

Those videos were a wake-up call. Joplin schools, thanks to the passage of a $62 million bond issue in April 2012, will all — with the exception of South Middle School — be equipped or built with storm shelters. Superintendent C.J. Huff says the lessons from the storm have shown Joplin administrators how to make South Middle School safer, as well. In all, Joplin will have 14 safe rooms.

Many area school districts have applied and received grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for shelters as well.

Seven of the 10 children killed Monday in the EF-5 tornado in Moore, Okla., were at the Plaza Towers Elementary School where the storm ripped off the roof and knocked down walls as students and teachers huddled in hallways and bathrooms.

School storm shelters are expensive — some school officials say they are too expensive for them to build.

But given what we now know, all schools built here in tornado alley should include storm shelters in the plans.

We build playgrounds, football fields and auditoriums without a second thought.

Let’s make storm shelters for schools our first thought.