Friday, September 1st, 2017

Designing Schools for Safety

Posted by Rachael Ballard Filed under: General

PublicSchoolWORKS helps districts implement comprehensive risk management, compliance and safety programs. Although these plans include aspects of physical safety such as building inspections and scheduled maintenance, schools are considering even more things, such as building design, when it comes to keeping students safe.

In an era where districts are planning for crises like active shooters on an ongoing basis, architects are helping districts construct new and renovate existing buildings for increased safety. A recent article from Education Dive highlights a few design concepts that help increase a school’s security, making sure “students feel like they’re still in a school setting rather than a prison or military installation.”

Although active shooter situations and other emergency situations are important to consider, Kelly Yamasaki, an architect at Colorado’s OZ Architecture, believes architecture should consider the day-to-day concerns like “vandalism, bullying and custodial battles.” Many of these concerns happen in bathrooms. To help deter this, Yamasaki suggests removing the bathroom entry door and instead creating privacy using a labyrinthine entrance, similar to restrooms in stadiums and movie theaters. This ensures stalls and sinks are not visible from the entrance, while increasing acoustics, which may deter graffiti artists or bullies.

Yamasaki also highlights how windows into hallways and between classrooms allow staff to monitor students while still creating a creative classroom environment. However, these windows need to be placed strategically so the entire classroom cannot be seen through the glass or these “transparent” classrooms should be grouped together and isolated with a door or partition. In the event of an active shooter or another violent person aiming to go from room to room causing harm, this attention to detail could save lives.

Visitors are another safety concern for schools. Creating a single entrance that features a vestibule, so effectively locking the visitor in before he or she is approved, increases security and serves as a place for office staff to vet visitors, said Russell Davidson, principal and president of New York’s KG&D Architects.

Regardless of whether a district is constructing new schools or renovating existing buildings, several architects stressed the importance of working with local law enforcement. Their expertise may lead to feedback, including, but not limited to, the location of the administrative offices, how visitors enter buildings and where to mount security cameras.

Have any other ideas on how design can lead to safer schools? Share them with us by commenting below!

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