The Edmond Sun

Local News

January 17, 2014

Storm shelters in schools topic at legislative breakfast

EDMOND — Legislators representing the Edmond area were asked if the state of Oklahoma should help local school districts place storm shelters in each district. The Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored its annual legislative breakfast Friday at Oklahoma Christian University.

Oklahoma’s prime spot in Tornado Alley has challenged Oklahomans to ask what is the best way to improve the safety of school children. Violent tornadoes ravaged parts of central Oklahoma last year, leveling two schools in Moore. Families grieve over the loss of children.

Some people want the state to take the initiative to fund public school shelters. Meanwhile, springtime encroaches with the likelihood of destructive weather events in the state.

“Where do we stand in trying to provide storm shelters for our public schools?” said David Hornbeek, architect. There is a movement by the state to help school systems provide extra money so they can build storm shelters, Hornbeek said.

State Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, has filed legislation for HJR 1078 to put a $500 million state bond issue to the voters that would help fund the construction of school storm shelters and provide enhanced school security for our public schools.

“Right now two-thirds of Oklahoma schools lack storm shelters,” Dorman said. “This is unacceptable. I am committed to the safety of all Oklahoma school children in the event of a tornado.”

Dorman will be vying for the Democratic nomination for governor this year. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin is seeking her re-election for a second term. She will face former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, in the June 24 primary election.

Fallin has said she believes storm shelters in public schools should be paid for by local school districts.

“We generally think the local level is the right area. In most areas of education, they know what the needs are,” said state Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Edmond.

State Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, said Coyle Public Schools passed a bond issue last year for a safe room to be located under the gymnasium. The entire student body and the majority of the impoverished community will be able to access the shelter, Griffin said.

“So that community solved its problem. They recognized their own need,” Griffin said. “I believe in the power of our local communities to band together and provide for those needs.”

State Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said he has been approached by Rep. Mark McBride, R-Oklahoma City, to coauthor legislation to allow school districts to go to 105 percent of their bonding capacity for storm shelters or security measures with bullet-proof glass. | 341-2121

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Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

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