School district begins using FEMA-approved tornado structure


In February 2020, a groundbreaking was held for the construction of a new Perry County Middle School.
Perry County School District No. 32 got its first glimpse of what it will be like instructing and interacting with students in the new facility earlier this month.
Tuesday, Jan. 5, the district began in-person learning and teachers began working in the completed portion of the FEMA approved tornado safe area.
Later in the week, there was an opportunity to test the facility as the alarm system sounded.
“Our tornado alarm did sound around 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 8,” said district communications director Kate Martin. “The district’s alert is a voice recording stating: This is a tornado warning. This is not a drill. Please follow tornado warning procedures.”
It was an electrical issue that was quickly identified and resolved, according to Martin.
An alert was sent to parents informing them know that it was a false alarm and that all students were safe, Martin said.
According to School Resource Officer Teresa Worthington, students and staff responded quickly to the alarm.
“Our students reacted exactly as they have been trained to do through our repeated drills,” Officer Worthington said. “They were organized and moving toward shelters — and in some cases had already reached the shelters — before the all-clear was sounded.”
“Our first scheduled drill for the new shelter serving the middle school and high school had not yet been held, so this was a great learning experience for staff and students alike.”
The structure can withstand an F5 rated tornado and the neighborhood of 1,200 students — middle school and high schoolers combined — if there ever was the need to take cover.
“We have enough room for everyone to come and take shelter,” said Middle School principal Milton Whick.
The storm structure is part of the first phase of construction for a new middle school which is being built adjacent to the gymnasium.
The existing middle school building will eventually be demolished and turned into a parking lot.
The second phase of construction includes 23 classrooms, a new art area, media center and administration wing.


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