How to design a school in the era of mass shootings

Updated 11:53 AM ET, Wed August 15, 2018

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(CNN)For school designers and architects, the current debate about how to make schools safer focuses too much on add-on measures.

Metal detectors? More resource officers? Armed teachers? Bulletproof backpacks?
These security steps, whether effective or not, don't address the fundamental way that a school works or how people move through it. They also must be balanced with the need to create an environment where kids feel inspired and energized to learn.
As students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and across the country return to classes this week, CNN spoke to designers, architects and security experts to answer a sobering question: How do you design a school in the age of the mass shooting?
Their answers, which follow a theory known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, illuminate the delicate balance between security and education.
"It should be inspiring space. It should be lit with daylight. It should be a place where everyone feels welcome," said Sue Pruchnicki, principal at Bond Architects, a St. Louis firm that has designed many new schools.
    "Our task is to make it safer without making it look like a fortress."

    Perimeter landscaping that makes visitors visible

    The entrance to this middle school, designed by PBK/IN2 Architecture, includes large glass windows, protective poles and an entrance clearly outlined in red.
    One main idea of designing safety is to create several layers of security, or concentric rings of access, starting with the perimeter and then working inward into the school. If there is an intruder, each layer of security is designed to delay him or her until first responders can arrive.
    The outermost layer of security is the landscape leading up to the entrance. Designers said they try to create a perimeter where everyone has to walk up on foot, so that people inside the school can easily see who is coming.
    "Folks have to come up on a pedestrian level," said Art Bond, principal of Bond Architects.
    In practice, that means the area around the entrance might have a pathway through a low shrubbery or a garden, so that there are no places to hide. Some schools might have a pedestrian bridge out front to funnel visitors to that main entrance.
    In addition, visitor parking lots and bus dropoffs are located in separate areas further from the school entrance, so visitors have to walk to the entrance. Bollards or strategically placed planters near the entrance can also