On March 5, the Southern California chapter of the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) and AIA|Los Angeles sponsored a Designing Safer Schools Workshop attended by architects, school administrators and parents at John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica.
Mariana Lavezzo, representing A4LE and DLR Group started off by sharing highlights from the August 2018 AIA|Los Angeles School Safety and Security Panel. Assisting her with the insights were Michael Pinto from NAC Architecture and Mike Dannenberg from Vantage. Mariana then updated the group with the latest progress report from the A4LE School Safety and Security Task Force Survey. One exciting bit of news is that A4LE will be setting up a new website with a “Wikipedia-like” feature to catalog all ideas and recommendations for safer schools.
Carey Upton, Chief Operations Officer from Santa Monica Malibu School District (SMMUSD), then discussed the challenges that their school district faced when they used Measure BB Bond money to update the security and perimeter control on their campuses. The main challenge was to create the right type of perimeter and finding balance between openness and safety. Accompanying Cory was Dr. Ben Drati, Superintendent of SMMSD and Deanna Sinfield, the principal from Franklin Elementary School who provided the perspective from school administrators responsible for school safety.
The bulk of the meeting was a roundtable discussion around six different school safety topics. The topics and moderator for each topic were:
- What steps do we take to prevent and prepare for daily threats to also cover emergencies? (Mariana Lavezzo from DLR Group)
- What measures can we take to make users have the perception of safety? What steps can we take to making the physical environment safer? (Mike Niola from Vantage)
- How would a trauma informed school improve safety? (Ashley Johnson from Berliner Architects)
- What physical (and cultural) shifts are needed to make a school welcoming yet safer? (Richard Berliner from Berliner Architects)
- How do we manage the check-in and pick-up challenge? (Mike Dannenberg from Vantage)
- Research shows schools which are more engaged with the parents and other community members are more likely to be safer. What can you imagine doing (physical and programmatic) that engages all community members? (Michael Pinto from NAC Architecture)
After a spirited discussion, each table presented their findings to the group. School safety is a critically important topic and the ideas generated will become part of the A4LE knowledgebase.