(Letter I received from concerned parent and teacher. They provided a chart that I could not get to post the way it came to me in the email. Sorry if it looks confusing. This is concerning the choice to build safe rooms and where they are going to build them.)
More and More I am appalled at the decisions made regarding the safety of the children of DeSoto County Schools. Which children matter to the district policy makers and which children are expendable? Southaven Elementary was hit by a tornado in 1972. One building was destroyed and several teachers and children were injured. What has been done to improve the safety issues at this school if this should ever happen again? This is the only school (that I am aware of) in the district with trailers. Since the disaster of 1972 they have added these trailers instead of adding new construction as they do at most other schools. They do not even have the decency to provide covered walkways for the students to keep dry during bad weather. Some teachers have complained they were left stranded in a hailstorm with students as they tried to get their key fobs to work to get into the main building. There is a lot of research on the dangers of being in trailers during a tornado. The following is an excerpt from some of this research:
Mobile Home Residents 2500% More Likely To Die in Tornadoes
According to the 2000 US Census, only 7.4% of the United States population lives in mobile homes, this represents a much greater risk than for residents of permanent housing. From 2000 to March 31, 2007, the average number of annual deaths per million mobile home residents was 31.47, while it was only 1.26 in permanent housing, implying that mobile home residents die at a rate 24.98 times greater than non-mobile home residents.
Table 1: Annual mobile home tornado fatalities compared to non-mobile home fatalities (Non-MH), total tornado fatalities and percentage of fatalities in mobile homes for United States from 1985-2007. 2007 only contains data from January 1 to March 31.
Year Mobile Home Deaths Non-MH Deaths Total %Mobile
1985 28 62 90 31.1%
1986 7 8 15 46.7%
1987 24 35 59 40.7%
1988 21 11 32 65.6%
1989 12 38 50 24.0%
1990 7 46 53 13.2%
1991 23 16 39 59.0%
1992 21 18 39 53.8%
1993 13 20 33 39.4%
1994 24 45 69 34.8%
1995 11 19 30 36.7%
1996 12 14 26 46.2%
1997 13 55 68 19.1%
1998 62 68 130 47.7%
1999 29 65 94 30.9%
2000 30 11 41 73.2%
2001 16 24 40 40.0%
2002 29 26 55 52.7%
2003 22 32 54 40.7%
2004 15 20 35 42.9%
2005 32 6 38 84.2%
2006 22 45 67 32.8%
2007 33 15 48 68.8%
2000-2007 Subtotal 199 179 378 52.6%
Complete Total 506 699 1205 42.0%
This is an excerpt from an announcement made in February 2013:
The board approved a bid of just over $1 million for a four-classroom addition at Hernando Elementary. The district also plans to add four classrooms in an existing wing at Hernando Hills Elementary and an eight-classroom building at Southaven Elementary.
I challenge any parent to drive by the 2 Hernando schools to see their new additions being built and then drive by Southaven Elementary to see their new addition not being built. The principal was informed at the end of the school year there was not enough money for an addition at Southaven.
And if this is not enough to enrage you, then please take a look at this announcement made by Katherine Nelson also in February 2013.
DeSoto County school board members have approved bids to build safe rooms on five of six campuses targeted for the structures.
Bids for work at Hernando, Horn Lake, Lewisburg, Olive Branch and Walls elementary schools received unanimous approval on Monday.
The Commercial Appeal reports a sixth school, Hope Sullivan Elementary, also is slated to receive a safe room, but board members rejected bids and will rebid the project because of a procedural error.
The safe rooms, which are reinforced, stand-alone buildings, are intended as safe locations during a tornado. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi EMA are providing 95 percent of the funding through a grant.
School board members in December approved the projected local share of the work, bringing the local figure to $405,293.
School system spokeswoman Katherine Nelson said the “safe rooms” will provide a safe location for students and faculty in the event of severe weather. She said the
schools selected for the project are those with a small enough enrollment — 800 or less — that the entire student body can fit inside the building.
By the way Katherine…Southaven Elementary has an enrollment less than 800, has trailers for children and has actually been hit by a tornado with injuries to children.
The decisions regarding the safety of select students and the obvious disregard of the safety and well being of other students is about as close to criminal behavior as you can get.
There is no justice for some students by the powers that be in the Central Office. They continue to make poor decisions that are detrimental to select students, which are unfortunately the students from the lower socio economic areas of the district. If the parents of this area do not demand the same respect for their children it is for sure this administration will not give them the respect and consideration that they deserve.
If the superintendent can justify putting a safe room in his daughter’s new state of the art building then he should be able to justify adding a new safe room at one of the oldest schools in the district with trailers on campus.
Shame on you Milton Kuykendall and the school board for rubber-stamping this and shame on the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi EMA for not stepping in to help determine which schools are the most vulnerable.
Concerned Parent and Teacher
(I am listing some links for you to research regarding tornados and Desoto County. I found that the 2 most vulnerable areas were Olive Branch and Southaven. They were the only ones directly hit by tornados and suffered the most damage. Just info to substantiate this parent and teacher’s concerns.
This article has none other than Pat Nelson speaking on tornado hitting Southaven. This is when he still worked for Entergy.
Olive Branch and its schools have been hit hard since 2008. Several of these articles show just how hard they have been hit. I believe 1 hit in 2008. 2 hit in 2009. I think 1 hit in 2011. The next several links show the OB schools tornado info.
This gives complete city data for Hernando showing again that tornados have not hit the city since 1900. The closest tornados that have hit have been approximately 10+ miles away.
This answers when the last tornado hit Hernando, MS on Nov. 22, 1900.
Horn Lake tornado info. No tornado has hit horn lake since 1909. The closest tornado hit 1.8 miles away in 1952.
Maybe everyone would feel better if the school district released their data, analysis or reports that show how they came to determining where these safe rooms go. Katherine Nelson claimed it was schools with less than 800 kids, but that covers the majority of all of the schools and hardly a good reason to choose those schools. That is just my opinion though. What do you think?