Seattle architects design schools with safety in mind

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by LINDA BRILL / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on December 18, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 18 at 9:20 PM

Long before the school shootings in Connecticut, a Seattle architecture firm started deveoping school security designs.

NAC Architectture, specializing in school design, has designed a quarter of all of the new schools in Washington State.

"We have to deal with the negative involved in education and create defensive measures," said school architect Guy Overman.

At Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, a teacher moved her group of kindergarteners into the classroom bathroom for protection.

Overman is now looking at the feasibility of building some kindergarten classrooms with attached "safe rooms" similar to a lock-up that Jodie Foster used in the movie "The Panic Room."

"It might be possible to use Kevlar integrated into the door," said Overman.

Long gone are the old school designs of several exterior doors and  covered windows at schools.

Kevin Flanagan, NAC managing principal, says several safety features are incorporated into their designs.

"At the main entrance there's a lot of visibility so people at the front desk can see what's going on," he said.

Their schools have wings and vestibules that separate schools into compartments, like a submarine. They also install lockdown buttons.

"It's a button and when you hit it, any exterior door will be locked," explained Flanagan.

The team says using bullet proof  glass throughout a school is not practical.

Designing safety is a delicate balance, says Overman.

"You want to invite healthy learning and keep the bad guys out of the schools. If you turn them into a lock down prison, you're letting the evil aspects of society dictate the terms."

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