A voice came over the loud-speaker system filling every room at Great Bend Middle School.
“We are conducting a tornado drill. This is only a drill. Please go to your safety area,” Renee Skinner, secretary, said into the microphone.
At the sound of the announcement and a special alert, all 580 students and staff filed almost noiselessly down the halls and into the specially built safe room that doubles as a wrestling gym.
Students sat cross legged on the floor while teachers and staff stood lining the perimeter of the room and the doors were shut.
The shelter was filled, but not crowded. It was designed to hold 720 people.
The room is built of concrete-filled, rebar-reinforced cinder blocks with a six-inch concrete roof. It was part of the construction of the new gym at the middle school built in 2013. Since then, about half a dozen weather-related drills have been held.
“Living in Kansas, severe weather is a reality,” said Brad Reed, USD 428 superintendent of schools. “Real, tragic tornadoes have hit not far from here.
“The safety of our students is paramount,” Reed said. “We are actively looking into ways to have safe rooms in all of our schools.
“It is a funding issue,” he said. “We are exploring all available options to make safe rooms in all our schools a reality.”
Such drill are routine in USD 428. Each school holds them up to three times per year.