With school shootings happening with ever more frequency this year, SSP Architects Principals Jeanne Perantoni and Marcus Rosenau have joined with other experienced school-design architects in New Jersey to participate on the AIANJ Safe School Design Task Force. Together, Task Force members will explore ways that architects in the K-12 school design field can best put their problem-solving skills to work to help colleagues, clients, and the public to incorporate best practices of school planning and design to enhance school safety, security, and wellness. The Task Force launched its in-depth research into this issue during International Code Council’s Building Safety Month this May.
SSP Architects’ School Architects Discuss School Safety
“Having worked closely with the New Jersey public school community for decades, SSP Architects wants to do everything within its power to guide the state’s K-12 schools on the best practices to consider when evaluating which design features and tools are the most effective at protecting the health, safety and wellness of students and staff,” said Rosenau.
Going forward, Perantoni said SSP will collaborate with school leadership to see where it is possible from a practical and financial standpoint to incorporate some of the key findings of the International Association for Learning Environments’ “Safe School” report, which include:
- Improve site design to increase access safely and reduce places where bad actors can hide.
- Develop secure entry areas which are clearly identifiable, and control public access.
- Create building designs that include health and wellness features which improve the social and emotional learning of students and provide access to counselors and social workers.
“We will encourage educational leaders to look beyond “hardening” security systems to promoting collaborative student-teacher-counselor interactions and early interventions that have shown to make a large impact on reducing bullying, isolation and ultimately school violence,” said Perantoni.
According to Rosenau, national studies are advocating that “soft” responses – enhanced by design elements in schools – can have a tremendous impact on student/teacher safety.
“Studies have shown that designing bright, well-maintained physical environments with excellent lighting, acoustics, indoor air quality, and cleanliness have a direct, positive correlation with improving academic performance and enhancing a sense of well-being. This is especially helpful in addressing mental health issues and in reducing instances of victimization, student suspensions, dropout rates, and teacher turnovers,” said Rosenau.
He added, “We are looking forward to working with the Task Force on all aspects of how the built school environment affects overall student safety.” These issues include:
- Developing safer transportation areas, including placing natural barriers between the onsite roadways and walkways.
- Identifying design features which create natural surveillance and supervision oversight by maximizing visibility and minimizing auditory isolation.
- Addressing students’ mental health needs by including biophilic design features and use of materials which instill a sense of calm and stress reduction.
“We are always looking to identify innovative ways to creatively address site-specific challenges. As architects, we are trained in making designs sustainable and adaptable to address particularized needs. Schools throughout New Jersey can be assured that SSP will always be there for them to help maximize building design resources to better protect our students and teachers,” said Rosenau.