Lawton school district holds saferoom groundbreakings
Adults and students at seven Lawton elementary schools participated in groundbreaking ceremonies Thursday to mark the official beginning of Lawton Public Schools' saferooms project.
The saferooms areas to be built at each school to provide sufficient shelter for students and staff in the event of a tornado are among the first major construction projects to be funded through an ad valorem program that Lawton Public Schools (LPS) district voters approved in 2017.
Thursday, LPS officially acknowledged that project by holding ceremonies at seven of the sites: Almor West Elementary, 6902 SW Beta; Carriage Hills Elementary, 215 SE Warwick Way; Crosby Park Elementary, 1602 NW Horton; Edison Elementary, 5801 NW Columbia; Hugh Bish Elementary, 5611NW Allan-a-Dale; Sullivan Village Elementary, 3802 SE Elmhurst; and Woodland Hills Elementary, 405 NW Woodland Drive. A saferoom also is planned at an eighth site: Whittier Elementary, 1115 NW Laird.
District officials said last year the eight schools were those LPS facilities that were found to have unsuitable protection against tornadoes.
The decision was made through the district's participation in Safe Schools 101, a program initiated by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Federal Emergency Management Agency to help assess schools across Oklahoma. The program grew out of state concerns in the aftermath of a tornado (estimated at times to have been an EF4 and EF5) that hit Moore on May 20, 2013, causing extensive damage across the city and destroying its Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools. Seven students who were sheltering in Plaza Towers Elementary died as a result of the storm.
Almost immediately, state officials began discussing the need for saferooms in schools and created the Safe Schools 101 program to assess school districts and their sites to determine which provide protection and which do not. Most Lawton schools are in the middle category (areas of increased resilience are present), with only two (Freedom Elementary and MacArthur High School) fitting into a high protection category. The eight elementary schools selected for LPS' saferoom program are those that are in the lowest category: unsuitable protection.