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Whittier safe room almost done; construction continues on EMS

The final safe room for Lawton Public Schools is slated for completion by Christmas, while construction of a new middle school is proceeding, but not quite as fast as district officials had hoped.

The work at Whittier Elementary School in north Lawton and Eisenhower Middle School in west Lawton are the largest of the projects being funded with bond and sales tax programs put into place by district voters. The projects drew attention from members of the LPS bond oversight committee, a citizens committee appointed to oversee projects and expenditures from programs put into place in 2004, 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

One of the most visible was the safe room project, multi-use facilities built at eight elementary schools to shield students and staff from tornadoes. The buildings are defined as multi-use because they are used as classrooms on a daily basis, but can shelter the entire student body and staff during tornadoes.

Interim Superintendent Tom Thomas said those “built” facilities are the first phase of a project that district officials identified after an inspection of all school campuses. The inspection highlighted schools that could be “hardened” (meaning, adjustments made to existing structures) and those that needed new facilities.

Eight of the district’s schools had no suitable area to shelter during storms, the eight that were identified for safe rooms in what was called Phase I, Thomas said. Schools with areas that can be hardened to allow students and staff to shelter in place are set for Phases II and III, which will be funded in the future, Thomas said.

Seven of the eight elementary schools have been completed, although the district still is waiting for FEMA documentation before Edison Elementary School can receive a certificate of occupancy from the City of Lawton, said Jacob Jacox, project manager for Crossland Construction, which is overseeing LPS work. Edison is adjacent to a creek, meaning it is in the flood plain and FEMA has a say in the final completion.

The final safe room project is Whittier, started in June after the school year ended and slated for completion by early December.

The Lawton Constitution

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