Neb. School District to Review Severe Weather Procedures

The review comes as parents criticize the district for its response to a tornado warning as students were being dismissed.

Officials with Omaha Public Schools announced they will review the district’s severe weather policy following a controversial incident where parents were refused shelter during a tornado warning.

The incident occurred at Castelar Elementary School on April 27, when tornado sirens sounded just as students were being dismissed. The school’s principal, Adriana Vargas, refused to let parents shelter in the school building and told them they’d have to wait out the storm in their vehicles, according to Omaha.com.

The district’s current severe weather policy doesn’t give procedures for storms when parents and others are at the school. That resulted in different schools handling the situation differently.

At Fullerton Elementary, parents and high schoolers passing by were brought into the school to take shelter.

Now a committee of district officials, including school safety and transportation professionals, will meet to address different severe weather scenarios in hopes of providing clearer guidelines for schools and parents.

“I’d like to see a plan put in place for parents who are there to pick up their kids if that happens,” parent Jennifer Lang, who walked to Castelar Elementary on the day of the storm, says. “They should at least let you in the front door so you’re in some sort of shelter.”

Lang and several other parents were forced to huddle outside the school entrance during the storm. School officials said limited shelter space and security concerns contributed to their decision not to allow parents inside.

Schools in the county, which conduct storm drills twice a year, are not required by law to act as public shelters.

In the district’s meeting, committee members are planning to discuss options for handling storm warnings during school dismissal times.

“We need to step through these specific kinds of situations we could run into if we have an active warning during dismissal, like we had yesterday,” District spokeswoman Monique Farmer said.

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