Kerr Elementary unveils new wing, tornado safe room

Kerr Elementary's safe room is the third to be built. (KTUL)

On Tuesday, the ribbon was cut on a brand new wing at Kerr Elementary, and it is a fortress against mother nature.

"In the event of a storm, we have a place for our students to come, and it is the official safe space for them," said TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist. "It's storm enforced and safe in the event of a tornado."

Signs line the hallways pointing students and staff to the new wing in case of a storm. Giant storm doors can roll up or down in just seconds.

The building may look like two stories, but it's actually just one. An added area on top is basically reinforcement to help it hold up during a storm. The building can withstand a 250 mile per hour gust of wind. It's more than just a safe place, it's eight new classrooms, a stark improvement from the trailers that once were home to classes. That meant a lot of walking outside in inclement weather.

"Teachers had umbrellas they kept in strategic places going outdoors," said Kerr Principal Molly Miller. "We had ponchos that people wore sometimes, not to mention that it's cold in Oklahoma and you never know what the weather is going to do. It's very fortunate that we were able to have our students all in one building."

Not all schools in the TPS system have a tornado safe room, but Dr. Gist says that is changing quickly.

"The 2000 bond that was passed to help us keep our buildings warm, safe and dry included funding for us to build 20 of these tornado safe spaces in schools," she said.

Kerr Elementary's safe room is the third to be built.

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