DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - When bad weather strikes thousands of DeSoto County students will soon have a safe place to go.
Safe rooms are being built at six DeSoto elementary schools. It's a three year project that's finally coming to fruition.
They can be used by students if a tornado strikes during the school day, and will be open to the community if one hits at night.
"They can withstand tornadoes or winds up to 250 miles per hour," says DeSoto Co. Schools Associate Superintendent Thomas Spencer. "If a weather alert comes up saying a tornado has been spotted or there's a watch, or certainly a warning, it will be part of their procedure to go in there."
The rooms will have low ceilings, no windows and a special floor.
"These safe rooms will be able to hold 883 occupants and they'll have rest rooms and storage," Spencer says. "You think about 883 children and teachers -- that's a nice sized area."
Schools with smaller class sizes were chosen.
"They were also selected based on the fact that a tornado was prone to come through that area."
"We've got one going at Walls, one at Lewisburg and one at Hernando." There's also Olive Branch elementary, Horn Lake elementary and Hope Sullivan School in Southaven.
Those six will be the first, but not the last. The county wants to eventually build one at every school.
"We have 41 campuses. It would be nice to have a site on each one of them," Spencer tells abc24.com.
"We'll also be able to use the safe rooms not only during tornadic activity, but as a multi purpose room during the course of the year. They'll be used for PE buildings, assemblies and so forth. It's a win-win for DeSoto schools."
The project costs more than eight million dollars. DeSoto County Schools will only pay five percent of that, almost all of it is paid for by federal funds.
They plan to start building in late spring/early summer.