A new elementary school in central Illinois has safe rooms to protect students.
The new Middletown Prairie Elementary School in Mahomet, near Champaign, has 10 safe rooms disguised as backpack cubbies or bathrooms. The safe rooms are located between every two classrooms and have concrete walls reinforced with metal rods. They also have doors made of high-impact resistant metal with three locks.
The safe rooms were designed by Ittner Architects. CEO Dennis Young said the rooms can protect students from severe weather or an armed intruder, and that having multiple rooms is more comfortable for younger students instead of the unfamiliar gym or auditorium.
"From an economic standpoint, it's expensive to harden an entire building, so a lot of times schools will harden a gym or an auditorium, which is often down the hall and not easily accessible to everyone," Young told The News-Gazette. "For this age of kids, that doesn't work. You're going to lose somebody."
Students will get used to using the space each day for coats and book bags, Young said, making it easier for kids to know how to get there when it needs to be used as a safe room.
State legislation was passed in January requiring any future schools to be built with adequate safe rooms or storm shelters.