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Columbia Public Schools prepared in case of a weather emergency

After a tornado in Moore, Okla. destroyed two elementary schools, Columbia Public Schools released details about its severe-weather plans.

“We do live in a tornado area of the country, so that’s certainly something we are always concerned with,” said Michelle Baumstark with Columbia Public Schools.

The school district said schools conduct emergency drills once a month to prepare students and staff for severe weather or an emergency.

“We do our best to make sure we keep children safe, that’s our number one priority,” said Paxton Keeley Elementary Principal, Elaine Hassemer.

In Columbia there are 34 schools, all with different emergency plans and safe places. Each school building has designated safe places for weather emergencies.

After the Joplin tornado two years ago, Mid-Missouri schools re-evaluated the safest place for students to go. In the past, places such as hallways were designated safe areas, but that has changed.

Currently in most schools, students and faculty will use interior hallways and lower level areas during a tornado.

According to the district, every school in Columbia has enough space for all students and staff to stay during severe weather. That includes all students and teachers in mobile classrooms.

ABC 17 News toured Paxton Keeley Elementary Tuesday in Columbia. While schools like it are as prepared for sever-weather as they can be, no schools in Columbia or Jefferson City have storm shelters.

CPS tried to use federal money through a FEMA grant to make the gyms at Hickman and Rock Bridge tornado-proof, but that didn’t get approved. The district said it is a competitive program, and building storm shelters is more money than it has. “It does not come without cost and we certainly don’t have it in our budget at this point in time,” said Baumstark.

Columbia Public Schools said the district monitors weather forecasts closely during severe weather and works with local agencies in case of emergencies or evacuations. If any parents have questions about the district’s emergency plans, they are asked to contact their child’s principal or the district by calling (573) 214-3400.

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