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Get safer schools by design: Letter to the Editor

Posted 2/28/18

The recent school shooting in Florida continues an unsettling trend of assaults on students in their neighborhood schools. While the debate will continue at the national level on proposals for arming …

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Get safer schools by design: Letter to the Editor

Posted

The recent school shooting in Florida continues an unsettling trend of assaults on students in their neighborhood schools. While the debate will continue at the national level on proposals for arming teachers and “hardening” our schools, in Pennsylvania, we need to continue the conversation on what can be done to make our students safer at the schools in our communities.

As architects, we are responsible for designing public and private school facilities that serve pre-K through 12th-grade students and faculty throughout the commonwealth. As leaders of the planning, design and construction process, architects are licensed guardians of the health, safety and welfare of our building’s occupants.

The building architects design safeguards for our students from a host of potential threats, both natural and man-made, and the continuing danger of school shootings only adds another potential hazard to address.

AIA Pennsylvania, a component of the American Institute of Architects, represents the voices of nearly 3,000 registered architects throughout Pennsylvania, with many of our members nationally recognized authorities on school planning and design.

Beginning in 2016, AIA Pennsylvania began a series of public forums designed to bring together experts in the field of school construction including state legislators, school superintendents, general contractors and architects.

Initially intended to support the debate on PlanCon, this series of presentations continues and is a vehicle for AIA Pennsylvania to engage the public and our state legislators on the complex facets of school construction in the commonwealth.

How will Pennsylvania’s architects design new schools and adapt our existing schools in response to a world of shelter-in-place, active shooter drills, and lock-down classrooms? In the nearly 20 years since the Columbine tragedy, architects have developed best-practices for the design of resilient, secure facilities that not only protect our students but help them thrive.

AIA Pennsylvania intends to continue our ongoing dialogue with state legislators, the Department of Education, the governor and local school districts to find workable solutions to safeguard our school children.

Scott J. Compton

2018 president,  AIA Pennsylvania