Four School Districts in Oklahoma voted on bond issues that included adding safe rooms or storm shelters to schools. This after lawmakers failed to pass any legislation regarding the issue this session.
In Putnam City, voters passed a $120 million bond issue that includes adding safe rooms to 10 schools.
The May 20 scene of two Moore schools destroyed by a tornado struck fear into the hearts of nearly every parent including Shabrone Brookings.
“I had two children at Briarwood during the May 10 tornados,” he recalled. “One, my 5th grade daughter, was actually in the building in the bathroom when the building collapsed and it was the scariest moment of my life.”
Brookings is now the principal at Windsor Hills Elementary in Putnam City where voters approved building a new bigger library that will also serve as a safe room for the school's 700 students.
“The safe room, I think that may be the biggest and greatest component of the bond issue for Windsor Hills,” said Brookings.
This will be the first time Putnam City will have safe rooms in their schools.
“I really think it was due to the tornado in Moore. I think that that opened a lot of eyes,” said Putnam City Communications Director Steve Lindley. “There used to be a thought that schools weren't open late enough for tornadoes to effect people, but there's an example of when it did and we know the tragic consequences.”
Voters in Elmore City and Panama also approved bond issues that included storm shelters. In Rush Springs, the issue failed by just two votes. The superintendent says he will be asking for a recount.
But approximately 25 school districts across the state do not have that option because they are at or near their debt limit. Right now schools can only have bond debt that is less than 10 percent of the district's value. A resolution that would have allowed a onetime exemption from that barrier failed to pass through legislature this last session.
Putnam City, however, is one of those with room under their debt limit.
“This is the beginning of what we're going to do, it's not the end,” said Lindley.
And Mr. Brookings knows how important that can be.
“My family just did a big sigh of relief, came and gave me a hug at the dinner table,” he said after hearing news of the bond passed.
In Putnam City, funds for some projects will be available as soon as January 2015.