How to Design Safe Schools That Convey Confidence and Inspire Learning

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It’s the worst nightmare of just about every student, parent, and educator: hearing the alarm or announcement that signifies a college lockdown.

During the 1st 4 months of 2021, there had been there had been at least 18 incidents of gunfire on college grounds in the United States.  According to Education Week, there had been 49 such incidents in 2018 and 2019. That figure dropped to 10 in 2020, as practically all schools shifted to remote instruction for at least component of the year.

Overall, schools are nevertheless quite secure areas. From 1992 to 2018, the price of crimes (theft and/or violence) committed against students ages 12-18 although they had been at college declined by more than 80 percent, from 181 victimizations for just about every 1,000 students in 1992 to just 33 per 1,000 students in 2018. However, the style of a college creating can make it even safer.

Schools do not have to resemble fortresses to retain students secure. With straightforward but purposeful style components and college safety functions, K-12 leaders can build secure and safe facilities that are also welcoming areas for students to understand.

Here’s a closer appear at 3 crucial style components for maintaining students secure: access manage, visibility, and connection.

Access Control

Controlling who’s permitted to access the creating is 1 of the most standard methods in generating schools safer—and there are several style techniques that can enable protect against undesirable intruders from getting into. Here, we break this notion down into 3 subcategories.


Limiting the quantity of entrances and exits employed for the duration of college hours tends to make it less difficult to manage access to the creating. We propose designating a single point of entry for faculty and staff—ideally protected by a keypad, keycard reader, or biometric identification system such as a fingerprint, palm, or facial recognition reader—and a separate entry for students. This guidance is supported by Security Magazine’s short article on keys to securing K-12 campus entries. If you have the personnel to do so, take into account stationing a safety or college resource officer (SRO) at the student entrance although students are arriving, equipped with two-way radio communications

Students or employees who come to college late need to use the visitor entrance. This entry need to have direct access to the school’s workplace, such as by way of a video intercom that enables workplace employees to see who’s requesting access prior to remotely opening the door. A video intercom aids protect against “piggybacking,” Security Magazine notes—which is when an unannounced guest tries to enter along with an authorized visitor. Adding a safe vestibule is also a most effective practice that prevents undesirable guests from getting direct access to the school’s interior. The inner doors need to have safety film or other protective hardening attributes wherever there is glass. 

Controlling access also consists of appropriate screening for prospective threats. There are a wide range of walkthrough and handheld metal detector solutions to decide on from. Don’t neglect about remotely situated college activities and sporting events: Consider transportable units for placement at these events, each indoor and outdoors, as nicely as various zone metal detectors for more precise measuring.

Visitor access management

A visitor access management program aids college leaders comprehend who’s in their creating, although screening out potentially unsafe intruders. An added advantage is that employees know how several guests they have in the building in the occasion of an emergency evacuation. 

The program can be as straightforward as requiring guests to sign in and wear a badge, or it can involve more extensive safety. For instance, guests could possibly be expected to show a government-issued ID that is examine with criminal databases and sex offender registries prior to getting granted access to the key facility. Or, they could possibly be subjected to a palm, fingerprint or facial recognition scan that can efficiently help in registering each and every guest or even account for all persons present, such as students and employees. 

In addition to supplying face, palm, and fingerprint authentication, the SpeedFace + reader can detect a visitor’s body temperature and the presence of a protective mask. Visitors can be denied entry if their body temperature exceeds the college-defined threshold or if no mask is detected. Well-established sex offender screening devices (like Raptor) also now interface with visitor management systems such as SpeedFace.

Door safety

Doors need to be kept locked when not in use. If this is not sensible, schools ought to have a way of right away securing each and every classroom door. The Quick Action Lockdown lock is a most effective-practice instance of a lockset that needs no unique information, crucial, or tool to initiate an quick lockdown. This series of locksets protect against an intruder from accessing the classroom by merely pressing the red button to deploy a 1-inch stainless steel deadbolt. Students and employees will normally know the status of the lock by viewing the lock indicator. These locksets are one hundred% code complaint, normally preserving a single motion egress capability, and they permit 1st responders or administrators to reenter with a controlled master crucial.

Classroom doors are not the only doors that college leaders will need to be concerned about. Many college spaces are controlled by “exit device” or push-bar doors. These doors generally manage bigger spaces such as cafeterias, libraries, gymnasiums, and auditoriums. An further challenge is that these spaces ordinarily have various doors. One answer to this challenge is the Lexi Lockdown door safety program, which permit college leaders to lock various doors simultaneously. This program secures all your exit devices in that space with the press of a wall-mounted, below-desk, or desktop panic-style alarm button—or even the press of a pendant button worn by a employees member. Lexi Lockdown-controlled doors are one hundred% code compliant and retrofit to current door trims.

Don’t neglect about your outdoors exit doors that are not employed for typical egress. These need to be outfitted with an exit device alarm that has an audible sound when opened or propped open.  This can be a regional alert or tied to an current alarm program.

As a final believed on door safety, take into account how employees workplace spaces will be secured. The Quick Action Lockdown locksets can be installed on workplace doors or on a designated “safe room,” such as a conference area exactly where employees can relocate to in the occasion of an intruder predicament.


Having visibility into what’s taking place in and about the college is an additional essential issue in maintaining students and personnel secure. School planners and designers can build a safer atmosphere by establishing clear sight lines inside hallways and frequent places and by avoiding nooks and recesses in which a person can very easily hide. Incorporating open, airy spaces into the building’s style can contribute to a secure and inclusive college culture. Here, we break this essential topic into 4 subcategories.


School designers can take benefit of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles to improve visibility and market security. CPTED is an method that suggests the design of buildings and outside environments can either encourage or discourage crime.

For instance, landscaping can be used to lessen access to unsupervised places on college home, and the strategic use of windows that overlook the school’s entrance provide possibilities for organic surveillance—while letting prospective poor actors know that other folks can see them clearly as they method the creating.

Although windows are best for letting in organic light and for enhancing visibility of the school’s perimeter, they also let prospective intruders see into the creating and can provide an open line of sight to students or faculty. Adding blinds or shades that can be drawn swiftly need to be thought of as further protection from intense climate events, as nicely as a way to screen occupants from persons intent on undertaking harm.


Lockdown shades for your interior classroom windows and sidelights are ought to-have safety features—and in some states, they’re now a requirement. These things are created to protect against intruders from viewing and targeting students and employees from interior hallways, and the horrific events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, demonstrate their worth. In the Parkland shooting, the attacker never ever entered a single occupied classroom but engaged students and employees by shooting by way of the unobstructed interior windows and sidelights, as nicely as at men and women in the hallways and stairwells. These weighted lockdown window shades provide a straightforward, price-productive option for covering windows swiftly in the occasion of an emergency.

In huge classrooms or open places exactly where these shades could possibly not be sensible, architects or college leaders generally style or build “safe zones,” which are places that are either out of the line of sight from windows or behind a security wall. HMC Architects creates safe zones with a different color or pattern of flooring, so students can very easily know they’re in a non-visible region. You could possibly also strategically location each day teaching things (such as whiteboards) to obstruct a clear line of sight into the classroom. 


Surveillance cameras can also boost visibility inside the creating and on college grounds. IP-primarily based video cameras can be viewed from any online-connected device, and network video recorders record and shop all camera pictures. However, consideration ought to be provided to the pragmatic use of cameras for instance, will they be monitored in true time, or will they just record pictures for processing later? We recommend they be employed each methods, monitored for the duration of crucial instances and used to method information or events as acceptable for your operations. Linking the camera program to a wise sensor (see the next section for more specifics) could prove crucial as nicely.


“Visibility” can imply more than just seeing the monitoring of air excellent, light, and sound is just as essential. The HALO IoT Smart Sensor fills gaps in a building’s “visibility” by monitoring private places exactly where cameras are not permitted, such as bathrooms. This device delivers a extensive warning program for hazards to college overall health and safety. It tracks air excellent to combat infectious illness and also detects and notifies about the presence of vaping, temperature modifications, loud disturbances, seismic activity, and more. HALO can even recognize the chemical signature of spray paint and markers to enable protect against graffiti. It has a true-time gunshot detection capability and “HALO Help” function that enables for quick communication to 1st responders to lessen response instances. Plus, the HALO Cloud choice lets you handle various HALOs at when to detect trends and produce reports for your complete facility or college program.


School safety is not just about maintaining intruders out of the creating and off college grounds. It’s also about establishing the suitable culture. “Creating a safe campus starts with helping students feel cared for and valued,” writes Design Principal James Krueger of HMC Architects. The threats to students and faculty do not just come from outdoors they can also come from inside. However, when students really feel connected with each and every other and with the adults in the creating, they’re much less most likely to erupt in violence.

Encourage interaction

The style of the college can enable foster this sense of connection. Include open, communal spaces with seating choices created to help conversation. Encourage teacher-student interaction by generating confident there are clear walkways for teachers to circulate about the area, listen to conversations, and provide enable as required. Inspire student collaboration by way of the use of mobile desks and tables that can be arranged into versatile group sizes, such as the Classroom Select Concord series of student desks that can very easily be configured in groups of two to six.

Help each and every other in an emergency

Cultivating an atmosphere of caring need to also incorporate a strategy to enable each and every other in the occasion of an emergency, such a college attack or—more likely—an accidental injury on college grounds.  One prospective situation that schools need to prepare for is an injury resulting in extreme bleeding. This is why several college administrators and safety directors are deploying public-access bleeding manage stations all through campus. 

Arterial bleeding can prove fatal inside 3 to 5 minutes if not controlled. These stations include the lifesaving bleeding control measures and just-in-time coaching required to defend students, employees, and guests from a sever bleeding occasion. The Mobilize Rescue System kits are paired with a diagnostic phone app to guarantee that untrained rescuers normally have the information they will need on hand to save lives. Schools adopting these options have recorded various life-saving rescues. 

Although the culture of a college is basic in preserving security and safety, its style plays a crucial part as nicely. Visit our website to understand how School Specialty can enable you style secure college facilities, environments, and classrooms that also engage and inspire students.

Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson leads School Specialty’s Safety and Security Business Development for the East area. A retired Pennsylvania State Police lieutenant, S.W.A.T. commander, and Deputy Police Chief, Joe is a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy for law enforcement executives and an Army veteran.
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Joe Wilson

Mike Simler

Mike Simler leads School Specialty’s Safety and Security Business Development for the West area. Mike has more than 30 years of knowledge in each public law enforcement and private-sector safety and investigative services.
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