ATOKA, Okla. – Students at an Oklahoma elementary school are a little safer after district officials install six bulletproof safety rooms on campus in case of an emergency.
“Before the safe rooms came in, we had to load the kids up on a bus and take them across town, which took anywhere from 14 to 17 minutes, which really in anybody’s terms is not acceptable,” Atoka Public Schools Superintendent Jay McAdams said.
The six air-conditioned safe rooms at Atoka Elementary School can hold up to 700 people – enough for all of the school’s students and staff – and can sustain both gunfire and EF-5 tornado winds, McAdams told KXII.
“We’re one of the first schools anywhere around to have these, but we just want our students to know when they come to Atoka schools, they are safe,” he said.
The rooms are fitted with flat screens that tap into the school’s surveillance system, so those inside can see what’s happening elsewhere. They’re located in hallways, the gym, the library and other areas of the school.
In total, Antoka Public Schools spent $400,000 on the rooms, which parents seem to believe the expense is well worth it.
“It’s not an option, they had to spend the money to have a safe room on campus,” Atoka parent Coby Sherrill said.
School officials told KXII the rooms have benches inside students can use as a quiet area to read or study, and several folks noted that they’re perfect in the event of an intruder or shooter on campus.
“Our students will not only be protected from the weather, but what a great place to go in the case of intruders,” teacher Denise Lovell said.
“It’s sad to say we have to plan for that,” Sherill said, “but if there was a shooter I the schools, they’d have a safe place to go.”
Parents and others on Facebook applauded the new safe rooms.
“Wow glad they have done this,” Bonnie Wilson-Moore wrote. “Went there when I was a kid and it was awful when the tornado warnings would be placed. Kids as young as six were bussed plum across town to a place that was safer.”
“Sad that schools need it, but glad it will keep kids safe,” Lisa Lewis posted.
“That’s awesome,” Tammy Williams added, “all schools need to have these.”