So here they come again. If you live in the heartland you know what I’m talking about. I am still not used to spring in the Mid-south, and I thought this was going to be a good year. I guess not.
Once again we sadly watch as people describe what it was like to live through a tornado. And if we are in our nice warm homes watching these accounts, we know we are the lucky ones. It is heart wrenching. What a lot of outsiders don’t understand is basements are not a given here.
One of the first things I want to stress is that parents and teachers should, if they haven’t done this already, find out exactly what their school disaster plans entail. You may not know that last September the Huff Post reported that half of the states do not have adequate plans in place.
The states that were lacking at that time were: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
This report also included daycare. Don’t forget to check on your daycare facility.
And check on your schools anyway too, whether you see your state on that list or not. It’s easy to assume all is well and be preoccupied with Common Core and the myriad of other serious issues, but school building safety should be first on the list.
Right now real concern involves what you should do if you have a student going to school in tornado weather.
What should parents do in Tornado Alley if they don’t think their schools are built strong enough? Well, they play dodge the tornado like they are in some kind of weird pinball machine. Early afternoon yesterday I saw the Facebook posts of worried parents in Tennessee. “Go get them now! Be safe!” And “We’re home. Thank goodness!”
But driving across town to get your child out of school during tornado weather isn’t always the wisest thing to do. I got caught in in a dark swirl of hail once, making this attempt. But I drove on and in just a few feet there was sunshine. Go figure. I was lucky. Who knows if it would happen again like that. Weird storms.
However, if you leave your children in school bad things can happen too as we sadly saw last year in Moore, Oklahoma. Seven children lost their lives in schools there.
Should schools close on the day of danger? Weather predictions seem better these days, so I lean towards this choice. Safety should always trump school work. But state rules need to be changed to provide administrators with some slack when it comes to closing schools for inclement weather. Allow something creative for make-up work.
What’s happening with schools and tornadoes on the building front these days? I quite frankly don’t know.
It sure didn’t look good for South Lincoln Elementary in Lincoln County, TN yesterday. The good news is that the children weren’t in school when the tornado hit.
There appears to be some action on the building front. But I can’t tell. I hate to say it but I wonder if it is real.
In Moore, Oklahoma they say they have rebuilt a stronger school (let’s hope), but another report from building activist Dani Legg, who lost her son at Plaza Towers Elementary School, doesn’t indicate it is so. She says, “the plan does not guarantee that a single storm shelter is built in a single public school.”
So what is the building they are touting? A ruse? It sounds promising. But also what about other schools in Moore?
And in Henry County, Tennessee another school shored up a hallway (it’s at the end of the video), through FEMA, which looks like a good move for student protection. But I’m not a building expert. If you are you might scrutinize this work more in depth and check to see what building codes are being used. I’m always skeptical.
But I think it is good to see at least some action being taken because it means people are thinking, or feeling pressure to do something—anything. And I hope those buildings really are safer.
But don’t be deceived. All schools are not safe. Just take a good look at the picture of South Lincoln Elementary School and know that. And until every school is prepared parents will still be stuck in the pinball machine or administrators will have to get innovative.
I’m not so naïve to think that people can always stand strong against behemoth tornadoes, but when it comes to our schools and child safety we must at least try. We after all choose to live in these places and we bring our kids along with us. It can’t be helped, but there are things that can be tried and we can push for safer schools for everyone.
So pay attention, check it out, and take care out there dodging the storms.