Campaign Stalls To Put Storm Shelters In All Oklahoma Schools

Wednesday, March 2nd 2016, 12:33 pm

By: News 9

The 2013 EF-5 tornado that hit Moore killed 24 people including 7 third grade students who were sheltered inside their school. In the wake of that deadly storm, some Oklahomans demanded change, to put storm shelters inside every Oklahoma school. But has that happened, now three years later?

"As the storm hit the southern part of my district, it took a hard right and then went right through Moore," remembers Rep. Jon Echols.

Once the storm passed, Echols went straight to the scene.

"We had the same feeling everybody else did, that feeling of helplessness," he said.

Heartbroken by the loss of life, including seven children inside Plaza Towers Elementary School, Echols teamed up with his colleague Representative Mark McBride. The two created the nonprofit group Shelter Oklahoma Schools, to raise money to help build shelters in all Oklahoma schools.

"We knew that's what needed to be done, we knew something needed to be done," Echols said.

In the first six months they raised $2.3 million, used to help construct 18 school storm shelters and safe rooms across the state. One built last year at Greenvale Elementary includes restrooms and can hold 450 people. It's also open to the public after school hours.

"We put 18 shelters in schools and that's pretty gratifying in itself, i wish we could have done more but that's as far as we got with the money we had," said McBride.

Now three years later, the campaign has stalled and two other measures to help fund the effort using taxes - failed.

6/30/2014 Related Story: Little Progress Made To Put Storm Shelters In Oklahoma Schools

Out of about 1,800 public schools in the state, a survey done in 2013 showed only 39 percent of all schools in the state had basements or cellars and only a quarter have safe rooms or shelters.

"We still have a large number of schools that are unsheltered," Echols said. "We're not talking about storm shelters anymore because we haven't had one since that storm, but they're coming again."

This is why many school districts have passed bonds to build the shelters themselves. In Moore, a $204 million bond passed which will help add storm shelters to 23 schools.

"At the end of the day we did what we could do and we were willing to fight the good fight, we're willing to keep fighting the good fight we just hope there are people who will stand up and do it," said Echols.

If you would like to inquire about putting a storm shelter in your school district, you can contact Shelter Oklahoma Schools through its Facebook Page. 


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