Tech Designers Build Safety into New School Modeled After Sandy Hook Elementary

A Minnesota school district is considering a more open design in a new school with better lines of sight.

by Jenny Berg, St. Cloud Times, Minn. / May 19, 2017 0
How can students gain a lifelong love for learning?

(TNS) -- Daylight. Large windows. An open concept floor plan.

These characteristics — to be incorporated into the new Tech High School — seem to reflect design aesthetics.

But they are also prominent traits of designing for safety and security.

"If you build security and safety into things, you have less problems later," said Carol Martinson, consultant from Intentional Security Design, Inc.

Martinson lead a discussion on safety and security considerations for the new St. Cloud school district high school Thursday at Technical High School. Martinson is working with the firms IIW-Minnesota and Cuningham Group, who are designing the new school on the south side of town.

District officials, teachers, parents and law enforcement from area agencies joined the discussion.

Martinson talked about the new Sandy Hook Elementary, which was rebuilt in Newtown, Connecticut, last year after the former school was demolished following a shooting where 26 people were killed.

The new building features a lot of glass windows, as well as rocks and other design elements immediately surrounding the building that act as buffers. The school is also built a distance from the main road with layers of parking.

"Their security is hidden in plain sight," Martinson said.

Preliminary designs for the new Tech High School feature learning neighborhoods similar to the classroom layout at the new Sandy Hook Elementary. The designs also feature one dedicated entry, lots of windows and a layout that enhances people's sight lines for safety, according to David Leapaldt of IIW-Minnesota.

"If you're on the site, you need to be on the site for a reason," he said.

If not?

"They stand out."

Tech High School's design reflects trends in the application of crime prevention through environmental design, which is a concept detailing how physical environment can be manipulated to produce behavioral effects that will reduce the incidence and the fear of crime.

The concept highlights the importance of defined entrances, enhanced sight lines and other physical features that can eliminate crime or negative behavior, Martinson said.

Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph was built with these traits in mind. The school has secured entrances, an open common area and better sight lines than older buildings.

That school opened in 2008, and is the district's most recent new building; the district is building Quarryview Education Center to house early childhood family education and community education. Construction is scheduled to begin on Tech High School in August.

And while building safe spaces are important, building comfortable, learning-friendly spaces are important, too, Martinson said.

"We could build a fortress, but will kids learn in it? Probably not. ... They learn in an open environment better," she said.

©2017 the St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.