At least two Alabama classrooms have now been fitted with dry erase boards that can convert into gun shelters that would be deployed during emergency situations, such as in the event of an active shooter.
AI.com reported that each specialized whiteboard cost the state's Cullman City School district $60,000, totaling around $120,000, as the product's maker, KT Solutions, launches a pilot program in the state.
The safe rooms are installed in classrooms at Alabama's West Elementary School in the city of Cullman, just outside of the state's second largest city Birmingham.
The company is promoting the expandable hard-plate protecting walls on wheels as an 8'x8' deployable gun and storm shelter.
Video from a demonstration shows two expandable walls that run from floor to ceiling which glide out using wheels and hinges. The surface of the walls is covered in a dry erase board surface so when the walls are angled in the corner of a classroom they are used for teaching lessons.
In the event of an emergency, the teacher, an administrator or a student who is trained to deploy them would pull on a handle to expand the walls creating a smaller room with a lockable door for those in the classroom to rush to safety.
The company says the decision to fit classrooms with the shelters is timely, given the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas and other school shootings in the U.S.
KT Solutions says the school's children have been told the rooms are called their "calm cottage," signaling an effort to downplay the dreary reminder of the real possibility of facing an active shooter in schools in America.
Education Week reported that there have been 153 school shootings in the United States since 2018, and 51 with injuries or deaths in 2022 alone.
In Uvalde, the gunman used an AR-15-style rifle purchased from a sporting goods store.
KT Solutions says the walls of its convertible dry erase boards are made of armored material that can withstand rifle rounds, according to Bulletproof Zone.
The Office of Justice Programs says Level III armor is tested to stop 7.62mm FMJ lead core rifle ammunition. According to Tactical Gun Review, an AR-15-style rifle can hold round calibers including 7.62 x 39 and the .224 Valkyrie.
It was not clear how thoroughly the whiteboard shelter has been tested, or if it's been tested by outside experts who might dispute the company's claims.
The company says the emergency shelter "fold-out room" can be expanded in around 10 seconds and could also be used to block flying debris in a disaster.
The door on one of the walls can be locked with a key, from the inside, that a school administrator or teacher would be in possession of, according to the company's training. So, hypothetically, the key-holder would have to be present in a crisis scenario for that functionality of the safe room to work.
Teachers at West Elementary School in Alabama appeared to try and find more benign uses for the expandable room as well, on average days.
Special Education teacher Hali Marquette said she has started using the room as a "sensory space" for her students.
“It’s an incentive. If you behave, if you do what is asked of you, you can go in and have some free time," she said.
She called it a "safe space" for her students.
Lawmakers have struggled to find a way to definitively get control over how to protect children from gun violence in U.S. schools.
Emergency plans are varied dramatically in each state across the country. The government website School Safety says there isn't a universal safety plan for U.S. schools and asks administrators and school boards to "take common actions to address the foundational elements of school safety" — a directive that appears as complicated as the problem itself has become.
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