While American parents wait (and wait, and wait, and wait) to see what the country will do to help prevent mass shootings, like many other developed countries have done, some people are taking the issues into their own hands. Parents are buying bullet-resistant backpacks for their middle schoolers. Teachers are stocking armored nap mats kindergartners can hide under, or installing kick-proof door locks.
While school shootings actually are in decline in the U.S., it doesn’t feel that way with the way the media presents them to us. And with 24 school shootings that caused death or injury in 2018, they aren’t in decline fast enough. So in Michigan, one school district is building its new school with shootings in the forefront of their minds.
The high school at Fruitport, Michigan is undergoing a heavy redesign. With a $48 million construction budget, they are prioritizing safety for their students over a new sports facility or better workflow. Safety specifically from an active shooter.
If there is ever a shooting event at Fruitport High School, there are built-in places for students and staff to hide because design elements shorten sight lines and provide “shadow zones.”
The classrooms at Fruitport all have a wing wall inside their door, meant to shelter 20 to 30 people from someone looking in from the hallway. Long corridors curve, preventing line of sight, and more wing walls provide shelter. Lockers aren’t in the hallways, but instead in a central plaza in waist-high rows. They allow both supervision and shelter. Windows have impact-resistant film, and a lock-down system allows officials or police to block in a threat to one sector of the school. That sort of controlled access is, by all accounts, the fastest way to shut down an emergent situation.
Fruitport Community Schools Superintendent Bob Szymoniak hopes that students who attend in the new building won’t feel as if the place is an unfriendly potential battlefield, despite all of these features. The divided spaces he hopes will feel like workspaces. The open lockers can be a social space, where students can sit and chat. He wants his students to feel safe.
“I think it’s only responsible that school districts and communities do what they can to incorporate security measures into their schools to keep the students safe,” Szymoniak told NPR.
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