Some schools building tornado-proof safe rooms

Lauren Williams's picture
Thursday, May 23, 2013

Beside a temporary high school in Joplin, Mo., sits a field of concrete boxes with steel doors โ€” bunkers trusted to guard students against 200-plus-mph winds like those that ripped their school apart two years ago Wednesday.

At the new Joplin High, a 16,000-square-foot music room will serve as a better version of the same thing. After tornadoes leveled the same school twice โ€” the first time in 1971 โ€” district leaders accelerated plans to include safe rooms in all new school construction, Superintendent C.J. Huff said.

Classes were out when the Sunday tornadoes decimated Joplin in 2011, but on Monday, the schools in Moore, Okla., were in. Seven children died at Plaza Towers Elementary School, some of them drowning after a pipe burst in the basement where they hid.

In both cases, the nation's eyes turned to the schools, and their safety in the face of a tornado.

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