Concerns over windows in Conway school storm shelters

Many are asking why there are windows in a safe room designed to protect schoolchildren from tornadoes,

CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) - The city of Conway is no stranger to tornado activity, which is why the Conway School District is constructing safe rooms throughout the district beginning with the elementary schools.

But some have questioned a part of its structure. THV11 went to get answers to clear up some of the confusion. Protecting school children from tornadoes is a top priority for the Conway School District.

“When you talk about tornado season and storms happening when kids are not at home, parents, of course, want their students to be safe,” said Heather Kendrick, communication specialist.

A project to put safe rooms in every Conway Elementary School is on track and set to be completed in a few months. But as they're being constructed, Kendrick said they've received some questions from the community, specifically about windows in the safe room. One viewer sent us a message about it asking, “Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a safe room? Is there an expert opinion on this or an explanation from the schools?” 

“Now you can see a covering, but for a few weeks it looked exactly like a cut-out, an opening in the side of the building so it looked exactly like a window for a couple of weeks," said Kendrick.

She added it's actually a ventilation louver, designed to protect air intake and exterior wall openings against severe circumstances. They're being placed in all of its storm shelters, which will also serve as multi-purpose rooms. Still, it raised concerns about whether it will compromise the safety of students during a tornado.

"The experts say and the codes that the building is built up to actually require you to have these ventilation louvers so it's required to be in the safe rooms and they're 100 percent safe," she added.

And the district wants parents to rest assured they're prepared to protect students under any condition.

"This just gives us a way to secure them in an even safer space and we communicate with the city and their management and weather officials to make sure that we get the latest info for that," said Kendrick.

Right now, there are safe rooms at two middle schools and one elementary school. The district is looking at plans to increase the number of safe rooms at its middle schools. We’re told it's not feasible to implement them at the high schools due to the amount students. The safe rooms will also open automatically for the community, after hours, if there is a tornado threat.

© 2018 KTHV-TV


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