HATTON, AL (WZDX) - Hatton High School in Lawrence County now has one of the first tornado shelters of its kind in the state. The school's new main building will help students learn and keep them safe at the same time.
For two years, Hatton High School science teacher Chasta Chamness and her students have been without a science lab after their old building from 1936 was torn down.
"The old building was very limited. We did the best we could," said Chamness.
On Wednesday, construction was complete and the high school's new building passed inspection. Students immediately started moving in supplies. That means next week, Chamness will be teaching in her new classroom and lab.
"This entire building is great," said Chamness. "The lab is more than I could have ever imagined."
The building has four new classrooms, two labs, and offices but it also provides peace of mind. It doubles as the school's tornado shelter for 1,000 students and staff including the elementary school.
"On a stormy day, the kids are nervous anyway and maybe there will be a little less anxiety knowing you can just walk out into the hallway and your safe," said Chamness.
The hallways and some classrooms have reinforced walls and doors on the windows that can withstand winds up to 200 mph. A FEMA grant paid for half of the buildings $2.3 million price tag.
The opening of the storm shelter comes at the beginning of the tornado season which is a big concern at the school after an EF-5 ripped through the county three years ago killing 14 people.
"It was a panic here at school because there wasn't anywhere safe around here. So for the future, that's a good step for the school to take," said senior Zachary Dutton.
If needed, the Hatton community will also be able to use the tornado shelter after school hours.