Taking an Active Approach to School Safety

Safety is not convenient.

That’s what I hear school district leaders say all the time about keeping students protected from harm. But they are more than willing to make the effort to increase campus safety and security.

Before the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, it was more common for CMSWillowbrook’s educational clients to focus on tornado precautions when discussing school safety. In 2018, it’s just as common for school officials to discuss how they can take an active approach to security against intruders.

A 2016 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report revealed 90 percent of public schools had a written plan for responding to an active shooter. Oklahoma districts are required to have a formal safety plan in place and conduct at least four security drills a year.

As the program manager for Mid-Del Schools’ projects, CMSWillowbrook is wrapping up a $10 million bond issue that was solely dedicated to increasing safety and security for 27 individual school buildings in the district. Some of the features installed as part of the bond passage include additional exterior lighting, cameras and access control to exterior doors. We also retrofitted most of the buildings with a secured entrance, known as a security vestibule.

Security vestibule in reception area at Mid-Del Elementary

Security vestibules provide a single point of entry meant to slow down an assailant while maximizing time to take shelter and get help.

The secured entrances typically have double doors which remain locked during school hours. Anyone entering the building must announce themselves via the exterior intercom to gain access into the secured vestibule. The visitor will then need another security clearance to access the main school building. However, each district has unique protocols on security vestibule procedures.

Other popular security features in schools include:

 Fencing to secure pathway between buildings.

Fencing to secure pathway between buildings.

 Alternative to indoor secured vestibule.

Alternative to indoor secured vestibule.

 Receptionist window.

Receptionist window.

There is much debate about the prevalence of school violence. Contradictory research makes it difficult to determine if rates are increasing or decreasing. Regardless, school district leaders are committed to keeping their students and staff safe by taking an active approach to security.

Cristy Callins is vice president of pre-construction services at CMSWillowbrook.

Larisha Hunter