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6 DeSoto elementary schools to get 'safe rooms' for greater tornado protection


OLIVE BRANCH, Mississippi — Students at Olive Branch Elementary School regularly practice the "duck and cover" stance to take if a tornado is heading toward town.

Kindergarteners and first-graders recently filed into place along a corridor wall, get down onto the floor with their arms over their heads.

"Crisis captains," faculty and staff members armed with two-way radios, slowly passed by to ensure that teachers who had been taking roll had accounted for everyone.

In about six minutes, it was over. The all-clear was sounded, and students and teachers began filing back into classrooms.

The school and five other Hernando County elementary schools will soon have new reinforced buildings to use as "safe rooms" for dangerous weather, The Commercial Appeal reports (

Enrollment determined which schools are getting the 5,850-square-foot safe rooms — to ensure everyone can get into the building, the maximum enrollment is 833, DeSoto County Schools spokeswoman Katherine Nelson said.

Hernando, Horn Lake, Hope Sullivan, Lewisburg and Walls elementary schools also are getting safe rooms.

A grant provided 95 percent of the $6.1 million cost.

During good weather, the buildings can be as multipurpose structures.

The additional buildings will also let the 40-plus campus school system curb some of its building programs, using existing physical education buildings on some campuses as classrooms.

Information from: The Commercial Appeal,

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