Tornadoes ripped through Dallas neighborhoods just a short drive from the Park Cities, leaving behind mangled homes, shops, and school buildings as well as a critical reminder of the need for storm preparation and precautions.
Oct. 20 was a Sunday, and the tornadoes arrived around 9 p.m. when many people were home watching the Dallas Cowboys or engaged in other activities.
Imagine if the roof of Walnut Hill Elementary School had come off during the school day. Imagine if a Highland Park ISD school took a hit like that.
“The basement at the high school is larger than anything we’ve had previously.” -Jon Dahlander
No one wants that, but district officials said their schools would be ready.
HPISD communications director Jon Dahlander explained how rules put in place after a powerful EF5 tornado ravaged Moore, Oklahoma, in May of 2013 called for any new school construction to include safe spaces for students and staff.
With schools across the district getting rebuilt and renovated as part of the $361 million bond proposal approved by voters in 2015, campuses in Highland Park ISD have plenty of areas that can serve as safe rooms in the event of a tornado.
Bradfield Elementary, which was finished with upgrades the summer of 2019, features a new parking garage that can serve as a shelter in the event of a tornado and work on a similar garage is underway for the new building going up to replace Hyer Elementary.
University Park Elementary also has a parking garage that could serve as a storm shelter if need be.
Highland Park Middle School has a parking garage as well, and Highland Park High School has a basement where students and staff can take shelter.
“The basement at the high school is larger than anything we’ve had previously,” Dahlander said. “It’s a very good situation (at Highland Park ISD).”
Fortunately, he said, the district’s schools haven’t had to use the garages or basement as a shelter so far.