Because of the tornado that struck Moore, OK on May 20 while school was still in session, many schools in Kansas and Missouri are looking at their own safety protocols and shelters to see if the plans in place are truly safe enough.
Even though the school year is quickly coming to a close, (for some districts it has already come) there is still a month of summer school and the possibility for more severe weather. Schools will practice both fire drills and tornado drills so that teachers and students know what the plan is for their location during summer school. The question many parents and teachers are asking is, “Are our schools safe in a tornado?”
Some schools have students go to a basement, but more often the places of protection are bathrooms and inner hallways that are away from windows and doors. This is because not all basements are built to be used as a shelter or has so much storage that there isn’t room for the students.
Students are taught to sit on their knees or bottoms facing the wall and cover their heads or the back of their necks with their hands. There are protocols in place to show the administration where students are and any missing students.
In the Oak Grove School District (in Oak Grove, MO) teachers are given laminated pieces of paper where any students missing from their roster (because they are in a resource class, in the restroom, or somewhere else when the drill or emergency began) can write the students name to notify the administrator they are “missing” a student. Likewise, any students “picked up” from the hallway or restroom by a different teacher will be listed on that teacher’s paper so the administrator can make sure all students are accounted for. When the storm has gone through and all students are found, an all-clear is sounded. Most schools probably have a similar protocol for emergencies and practice these drills.
Even though practicing drills can stress some students (especially special needs students who have anxiety disorders or those who may not fully understand the difference between the drill and real emergency) it is imperative for schools to practice and teach students exactly what to do in the case of severe weather.
Many reports have come out of Moore stating that teachers threw themselves over students to protect them from the tornado. Such a noble and selfless act. Even with all the protocols and practice, sometimes things don’t go perfectly to plan when an emergency actually happens. Thank goodness that teachers were so quick thinking and acting to protect as many students as possible.
Our thoughts are with the schools and families in Moore as they work through the physical and emotional rebuilding of their city.