School designs play role in school safety

By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 28, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Since the Parkland shootings, state lawmakers have been discussing ways to make schools safer.

Local architect David Vincent, owner and president of JRA Architects, says the way a school is designed plays a role in school safety.

He says there was a time when it was considered overkill when a school was designed with bulletproof glass at the reception area. He says, now, it's becoming more of an option when designing a school.

"I am a nervous father," Steve Canty said.

Canty not only worries about his high school daughters being safe in their schools in Jacksonville, he works at a school himself in Leon County.

While he appreciates current safety measures in local schools, he likes the idea of school designs tailoring to school safety.

"If the school is new, hopefully they'll have a way of a design. If the school is old, please update your school designs because the kids need their safety," Canty said.

Vincent says it's a balancing act designing school buildings to keep intruders out, yet be functional for students and staff on a day-to-day basis.

He says it's safer to have a single entry way, like in many of our local schools.

"It's very important in the school design to have a front door, to have an entry way that everyone knows," Vincent explains. "Psychologically, you see a tower, you see a door, you see one entry, people will gravitate towards that. So, it's a lot easier to control them. That way you restrict access."

Vincent says schools should have a lot of windows.

"The funny thing about windows, when it comes down to school safety is, if you're across the way, you can see a bunch of windows, you might not be able to see in the building to know if anybody is looking out at you. There may be someone there, you don't know. So, it stops you psychologically from wanting to do something when you're in full view," he continued.

Bullet proof glass, metal detectors and walls around schools are all options.

"I don't think that's the answer," said Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna.

Hanna says there needs to be more people paying attention. He suggest hiring seven adult hall monitors at each school.

"I had a hall monitor at Leon. He knew if a flea jumped on Leon High School's campus that didn't belong, we were going to be on it and he was going to follow that person, not confront them, until the deputy arrived. He knew who was our students and who weren't. I'm not in favor at all of designing schools like a prison," Hanna said.

Vincent says gates at schools can be good. But, if you have to be careful about not trapping students between buildings. He says students and staff still need to be able to get out easily in the even of a fire or other emergency.

He says designing a school with safety in mind can be very complex.

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