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Storms spur tornado study


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Some areas currently used as tornado refuges in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. buildings have been identified as unsafe.

The information was revealed in a report to be presented at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, commissioned by the district after Indiana experienced one of the deadliest tornadoes in state history.

Bill Jenson, director of secondary education for BCSC, said he remembers watching news footage of the tornadoes sweeping through Henryville in March 2012, leaving 14 dead.

The storm swept through the south buildings of the Henryville middle and high school complex, destroying the cafeteria and ripping buses off their chassis. Surveillance cameras recorded the tornado as it wiped out the gymnasium in just seconds, collapsing the exterior wall.

“The doors became projectiles,” Jenson said. “Just seeing some of those things happening so close spurred some of this.”

Additionally, the tornado that devastated Moore, Okla., in June had at least one local parent concerned.

Funni Ige-Wright told the board at the time that she would like to see a 10-year facility plan that would include safer places of shelter for students.

The report is confirmation there are indeed safe places of shelter for students. They just aren’t necessarily the same locations the schools had been using.

“Columbus is known for its architecture, which is great, but sometimes it presents some problem areas,” said Linda DeClue, assistant superintendent for human resources.

The problem areas included the hallway near the entrance at Johnson Early Childhood Center, locker rooms at Mt. Healthy Elementary School and east-west corridors at Richards Elementary School.

The newly renovated Columbus North High School also is spotted with areas to avoid, such as those surrounding the gymnasium and auditorium.

Columbus Signature Academy-Lincoln Campus, Southside Elementary School, Parkside Elementary School, Central Middle School and Columbus East High School already were following best refuge practices and will not need to make any changes based on the report.

The report was completed by Lynch, Harrison & Brumleve, a structural engineering firm, and CSO Architects.

It was distributed to building leaders in December.

Each school will have time to practice a drill with the newly recommended shelter location before tornado season begins in March.

“We will continually respond to the public concern to have safety as our top priority,” DeClue said.

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