Here’s something to look for the next time you tour your child’s classroom:
A trusty bullet-proof storm shelter that doubles as a quiet study space/reading nook.
Yeah, you read that right.
And if you’re like me, you’re probably as conflicted (and slightly nauseous) about the fact that not only does such a thing exist, but it’s ACTUALLY BEING USED in some elementary and middle school classrooms.
To be fair, the shelters were originally installed in a handful of Oklahoma schools as a way to protect students from tornadoes. But even the company that makes them — Shelter in Place — is quick to note they are equally effective against potential school shooters.
After all, they’ve been tested against every weapon ever used in a school shooting — and then some, per the marketing pitch on the website.
WATCH: The bulletproof shelters schools use to protect kids
“Like everyone else in America, we watched in horror the deadly shooting tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012,” the company’s website says. “And then, only a few months later, the deadly EF5 Tornado that hit the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore Oklahoma.
“After seeing these crisis events and saying ‘somebody ought to do something,’ we realized that we are ‘somebody.’ “
Like most parents, I would do anything to keep my kids safe. But really? Is this what it’s come to?
One school district installed 7 shelters in 2014
Healdton, Oklahoma, is a small town in the southern region of the state. Its school district consists of three schools: one elementary, one middle and one high school.
Healdton Public Schools Superintendent Terry Shaw said there are now seven of the bulletproof storm shelters in his elementary school — the bulk of which were installed in 2014 and paid for via a bond issue.
There are two larger units in the middle school, Shaw said, “(and) getting more is a goal,” he added during a Friday phone interview.
The high school currently has a basement and two locker rooms.
The shelters were installed to protect students from tornadoes, Shaw said. But he is comforted knowing they can also give his kids a place to hide if someone breaks in with a machine gun.
“It’s the necessary evil in the culture we live in today,” Shaw said. “To me, the fact that it’s bulletproof is the icing on my birthday cake.”
He added: “I can get 35 students and two teachers in there and to safety in about 30 seconds.”
Cue my stomach and that slightly nauseous feeling again.
Shaw said the shelters have become an “extension of the classroom” since they were installed. Students and teachers use them as reading nooks or math and science study spaces.
“My number one priority is how are we going to keep our children safe?” Shaw said. “They don’t just sit there unused. We decorate them. The kids know its there. They know its there for them to use, it’s there for their comfort.”
The bulletproof shelters come equipped with:
- interior lighting
- their own air filtration system
- padded benches
According to Shelter in Place, they are anchored to the foundation of the building or classroom in which they are placed.
They also come equipped with a 180-degree view television, so those inside can see what’s happening elsewhere in the classroom (like, for example, if there is still an active shooter in the room.)
The shelters are not cheap (as you might expect)
Shaw said they cost roughly $30,000 each for the six elementary units paid for via the bond issue. The two larger shelters at the middle school cost $81,000 (collectively) and were funded via a lease-purchase agreement with a local bank.
But Shaw believes the investment is worth it.
“I understand that they are costly,” he said. “But if a school my size can find a way to afford these, I think most schools could,
“If you make it a priority.”
What do you think parents? Would you be in favor of your child’s school installing bullet-proof shelters in classrooms?
WATCH: A classroom full of students scurry to the shelter in less than 32 seconds