Texas Architects Designing Schools With High-Tech Security

NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Most adults’ memories of school safety measures are limited to walking single file down a hallway during the occasional fire drill. Today, security begins with the very design of a school’s campus.

The touch of a button can seal off all exterior doors, protecting students inside from an aggressive dog, a suspect being pursued by police, or a potential school shooter. Even under normal circumstances, access is limited.

At the new George W. Bush Elementary school, in the Wylie Independent School District, the front doors of the school open into an enclosed glass room, where visitors confront a second set of locked doors. The only way to proceed is through a side door that leads directly into the main office.

PBK Architects Inc, which designed the campus, tries to balance creating a welcoming environment with creating a safe one.

“We like to provide clear sight lines – straight halls, long halls – not a lot of twisting and turning, where you can’t see. People can’t hide,” explained Todd Spore, PBK’s safety and security expert.

Gates can drop down from the ceiling to cut off portions of the school during special events. “If you don’t want people to be able to meander through the building,” said Spore.

Surveillance cameras are also strategically placed.  You’ll find more cameras overall and better quality ones, too, capable of capturing a clear picture of everyone entering and exiting.

The Wylie ISD also collaborates with local first responders, who can access images from the camera right from patrol vehicles.

“They can actually see where the smoke’s coming from, where a person might be going, and what people are running from,” said Ian Halperin, the district’s spokesperson.

The district also invites police to weigh in on where students can best hide in the event of a shooting.

In addition to fire drills, the schools practice lockdowns, where teachers lock classroom doors and students huddle out of sight.

“When we go back and look at what happened in those mass shooting events, we know perpetrators go from room to room as quickly as possible. Anything we can do to keep them moving down the hall, delay them getting into a room is what our goal is,” said Halperin.

Tiffani Makahilahila has been teaching for 15 years and seen the increasing emphasis on safety.
“It does make you nervous to think about the things that could possibly happen and the things that have happened,” she said.

All the planning and preparation, though, may one day save a life. She hopes it never has to.

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