Sandy Hook Opens 4 Years after Tragedy with Security in Mind

Sandy Hook Opens 4 Years after Tragedy with Security in Mind

Four years ago, tragedy struck when a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 students and six adults, making it one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.  Now students, teachers and faculty will walk the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary again; however, it won’t be the Sandy Hook they remember.

After the mass shooting on December 14, 2012, the Newtown, Connecticut school district decided it was best to demolish the old school and rebuild after an Advisory Committee determined the 56 year old building was no longer up to code and renovating would be just as much as starting brand new. Architects were able to bring the school up to code as well as eliminate portable buildings, make the school energy efficient and provide necessary safety features.  

Svigals + Partners, the architecture firm on the job, were given the opportunity to design a building that would create a sense of security while embracing those lost during the shooting.

It was important to Svigals that the school didn’t feel like a prison, ripe with security measures. They wanted those inside to be able to see out into the thick trees that surround the campus while also giving the school the safety features it needs to keep those inside safe. The firm found it increasingly important to create a school that had many invisible security measures.

Some of the most plain security features are in the landscaping. For instance, to reach the entrance, visitors must cross one of three bridges that connect the front doors to the parking lots. To avoid the feeling of a fortress protected by a moat, the architects are turning those bridges into rain gardens that collect and filter runoff rainwater. They’ll be an educational tool, rather than a security checkpoint.

The site map of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Credit: Svigals + Partners

Many of the more subtle security details have to do with the entrance of the building. The community asked the firm to reorganize the footprint of the school and parking lots so that friends, families, students and teachers would not have to revisit the parking lot where many waited to hear about the fate of those inside on the day of the shooting.

Now, the school has a subtle curve to the front of the building, kind of like an embrace to those approaching. Buses can pull up through a curved driveway, but staff will park in one lot and visitors in another, helping school officials keep track of who is coming and going. By re-landscaping the entrance, the architects honored the community’s wish to not revisit the original parking lot.

The floor plan for the first floor of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Credit: Svigals + Partners

As for the physical security of the school, there is now a gate at the entrance of the driveway where a guard will be posted to monitor who enters the parking lot. The front entrance will have two sets of doors through which visitors will be buzzed in through an intercom screening system. The windows are bulletproof and classroom doors, which automatically lock on the inside, are made of stainless steel that weighs over 350 pounds. The school has also installed a video surveillance system that monitors the hallways.

Sandy Hook Elementary has already opened its doors to teachers who have been setting up their classrooms since the middle of July. Students will be welcomed into their new classrooms during “Student Walk Through” on August 25 and will begin class on August 29.

Posted by Sydny Shepard on Aug 02, 2016

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