Israel opens new school that can shield student from rocket attacks
For the first time in years, the children of Sderot can study in peace.
Living under a constant threat of rocket fire from militants in the nearby Gaza Strip, their schooldays were often interrupted by mad dashes to bomb shelters. But on Monday, they started the school year safe from attack in a new, fortified, rocket-proof school building.
The $27.5 million structure features concrete walls, reinforced windows and a unique architectural plan all designed specifically to absorb and deflect rocket fire. Notices on the walls of the “Shaar Hanegev” High School remind the 1,200 students of their new reality: In case of a warning siren, it reads, stay put.
“You can finally teach without constantly worrying about what to do when there is a rocket attack,” said Zohar Nir-Levi, the principal of the junior high school inside the complex. “You can concentrate on your studies. It used to be that even before you said hello in the morning you were telling people where to run.”
The Israeli military says some 440 rockets have been fired so far this year. In a fresh reminder, two rockets fell in the area on Monday, following a similar barrage a day earlier. No one was hurt.
Over the years, authorities have scrambled to protect the town’s schools, reinforcing buildings with concrete barricades and stronger roofs. A heavily fortified elementary school was also built, as was a special indoor playground with a mini-soccer field, video games and bomb shelters, according to local officials.
But officials say the new high school takes protection to a new level. The school, built on a sprawling campus, took two years to plan and then two more years to construct.
Each grade has its own color-coded building, with colorful tiles lining the floors. It features concrete shelters in the school yard as well, to allow students on recess to find cover in the 15-second window they have between the sound of the siren and the landing of the rocket. A science lab and an auto shop are fortified. Even the angles of the buildings are specially built to deflect incoming projectiles.