Reinforced hallways help students stay safe

By Justin Logan - bio | email feedback

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) - Many schools across Arkansas have stand-alone storm shelters, but when plans were made to build the Newport Elementary School something different came to mind.

Newport Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Bennett said, "With the help of the architect and the engineers that designed this building they came up with a plan that would be cost effective to us to design the building as safe room instead of creating a whole new structure."

At first glance the hallways look normal. However, they're not just a walk-way to classrooms, they're built-in storm shelters.

"We have six different hallways to accommodate all those grade levels and each hallway is developed into a safe room," said Bennett.

The hallways are made to withstand an EF-3 tornado according to Tommy Freeman the Director of Maintenance and Transportation for Newport Schools.

Freeman said, "Its eight inch concrete block reinforced with rebar and concrete. Eight inches of concrete overhead, rated to exceed a 150mph wind."

At the end of the halls are reinforced steel doors used to protect everyone from flying debris.

"When we do have an emergency like that they can be shut by hand because typically you might think the electricity will not be on."

Dr. Bennett said having the storm shelter in the school will save time when seconds count.

"The key is the fact that it is so accessible to our staff. Our teachers just open the doors and sit their kids down in the hallway in an orderly manner and go through the drill if it's necessary," said Bennett.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.