DeKalb West One Of A Few Schools Getting Storm Shelters - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

DeKalb West One Of A Few Schools Getting Storm Shelters

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by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

LIBERTY, Tenn. - Schools are built to be much stronger than homes, which is why they're often considered safe places, but when looking at pictures of the devastation in Oklahoma, it's hard to believe.

Storm shelters are expensive, but DeKalb West School realized it's a small price to pay when its students are at risk.

 "I worry," parent Heather Billings said. "I'm like, are they protected? Are they safe?"

"I wouldn't know what to do without him," parent Fred King said about his 8th grade son Alex. "He's the youngest one I got."

When there's a threat of severe weather, there's only some much the teachers and staff at DeKalb West can do to keep students safe.

"Whenever a tornado or something goes by we go into the bathrooms and take a big book and put it over our heads and cover ourselves," Alex King said.

In June, the school is preparing to break ground on a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) storm shelter.

"We would evacuate the whole part of the building here to these seven classrooms," Principal Danny Parkerson said about the new plan once the shelter is built.

It will be able to sustain 250 mph winds, a direct hit of a 2 x 4 going 100 miles per hour and hold up to 1,300 people.

"I think it's a fantastic idea especially after what happened in Oklahoma," Fred King said.

Few schools in Middle Tennessee have storm shelters, mainly because of the cost. Now more educators have the idea on their radar.

"Anything is possible with the weather," Fred King said when referencing the Oklahoma tornadoes. "It could happen anywhere."

At DeKalb West, Parkerson said their storm shelter can't be completed fast enough.

"I wish we had them today."

A FEMA grant paid for $1.5 million or 75% of the shelter's cost. The school hopes to not only protect students, but open it up to the community when it's complete in August of 2014.

While most schools don't have storm shelters, newer schools are built with "safe zones," areas with extra protection.

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