Councilmen want to lift school safe room mandate 

Oklahoma City Public Schools plans to spend $27 million to equip 25 new school gymnasiums as safe rooms but some council members have expressed an interest in lifting the requirement.

“I bet we can fix that,” Ward 4 Councilman Pete White told school officials during a Wednesday meeting about the city’s requirement that school construction projects include safe rooms.

Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan and White, who represented the city at a joint education task force meeting with the school district, said they would look at lifting the requirement so the extra money could be used on other projects, such as expanding facilities on the city’s southside to alleviate overcrowding.

The school district is in the middle of building new gyms at 46 schools with funds from the 2007 bond. Twenty one gyms were completed before the city passed an ordinance last year mandating storm shelters. With 25 gyms left to build, district officials said it would cost over $1 million extra per gym to build them as safe rooms.

However, the district may not choose to change its plans even with permission from the city.

“We’ve got to build safe rooms,” Superintendent Robert Neu said at Wednesday’s meeting. “It’s not an option.”

Another district official also said making changes to planned gyms would be difficult because many schools are expecting to have safe rooms in their new gymnasium.

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