With the threat of tornadoes lingering, the administrative department is looking for ways to keep the student population safe.
On Wednesday, November 30, a tornado warning during sixth period caused students to leave their classrooms and stuff themselves into the first and second floors. The majority of the 1,613 students were on the second floor, where it became increasingly hot and overcrowded within minutes.
“I was on the second floor,” said sophomore Jalen Beckford. “I got down there pretty early, but for a good while, [teachers, administration] kept packing them in. Students were sitting in the bathrooms and my friend texted me that he was on the first floor in the stairwell.”
When students were crammed onto two floors, the issue of a glass building in the path of a tornado arose and how to keep the growing student body safe. One idea proposed were metal roll down doors on the first floor windows, allowing more students on the safest floor.
“[Metal doors] would give us more space down on the first floor,” said science teacher Deann Peterson.
Although the majority of students were on the second floor, the first floor is the safest. The problem of the wall of windows prevents the first floor from being used to its full potential.
“[The best place] is the first floor, absolutely,” said Peterson. “We don’t sit by those windows. We make sure that everybody is at either end and not by the glass of the lunch room. That’s by design.”
Student safety is the primary concern. Senior Allyson Painter voiced the concerns of the administration and her peers.
“No, [I didn’t feel safe],” said Painter. “Not at all. I feel like we were way too crowded and I’ve always heard that we’re supposed to be on the very bottom floor, but I was still on the second floor and kind of close to the lobby, where there are a lot of windows.”
Though the first floor is the safest, it would become too crowded to place to the entire school on the one floor. Administration would like to have students on all floors during tornado drills.
“Ideally, we would have students evenly distributed across all floors, but there are some things that make that impossible at this moment, i.e. the glass on the first floor related to the cafeteria and the same thing with the media center,” said principal Dr. Norman C. Sauce III. “We’re obligated to keep people away from the glass and the first and third floor present that challenge.”
To combat the glass, administration was approached with the idea of roll down metal doors that would be installed into the ceiling and roll over the glass windows during tornado drills. It would allow for more room to place students.
“It’s [metal doors] a good idea,” said Sauce. “It’s a possibility. Something like that is pretty expensive, so it’s not something that we could pay for locally, with local money, but we’re going to go through some additional building renovations over the next five years, so that’s an idea that we’ll definitely put on the table that might be included as part of these next round of renovations.”
It would be most cost effective to start with the biggest issue and put the metal doors on the first floor cafeteria windows first and then the media center windows.
However, Georgia does not have many tornadoes, averaging about thirty a year and the tornadoes that we do receive tend to be in northern Georgia and more rural areas. Tornadoes don’t usually increase to the strength of a EF4 or EF5 in metropolitan areas. Here in Chamblee, it is unlikely that one strong enough to destroy a building would occur, according to Peterson.
“There’d be a lot of broken glass,” said Peterson. “The building would be okay, but there would be a lot of broken glass. It would have to be a really strong tornado to rip the building apart because a lot of it is concrete block. It could happen, but the odds are not very high for that to happen.”
The concrete structure surrounding the building would most likely hold its’ ground against a weaker tornado, but the glass would be gone in seconds. Chamblee’s new building was much needed and the design is wonderful, but the glass feature could easily become a weapon against us.
There are two walls of glass between the outdoors and the hallways on the third and first floors. If the glass were to be blown apart by a tornado with winds that could reach up to two hundred miles per hour, then lots of students and faculty could be hurt.
Nevertheless, student safety comes first, and whether there is one tornado or one hundred, administration plans to do everything they can to protect the student body.
“We should always be thinking about safety as our first and foremost priority,” said Sauce. “If [the metal doors] could be reasonably installed for a reasonable price to allow for a safer and more sustainable environment in the event of a tornado, then I think we should. I think what’s in the best interest of safety should be the first thing we look at.”
Though the idea for metal doors was proposed, it could be a while before we see them in action.
“[Adding metal doors] are not quick fixes,” said Sauce. “You’re talking about things over the next several years, like when we go through several more phases of renovations, so I wouldn’t anticipate something like this being done by next fall. It wouldn’t be realistic. In the next several, it is possible. But, next school year, no.”