The design of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School on the site of the 2012 Newtown, Conn., school shooting features enhanced security measures—some subtle and others more prominent. Given the setting, this project is bound to get much attention and could influence school security standards on other projects.
Design firm Svigals + Partners used various measures to tighten security while avoiding heavy-handed features. The school is sited far back from the road and surrounding wooded areas, giving teachers and administrators more time to spot potential intruders. A rain garden spanning the school façade creates a buffer between the drop off point and school entrance.
Layered security doors and entry areas offer additional protection. Visitors must be screened through an intercom system before entering a security vestibule, where they will have to be checked in by school personnel.
A set of doors at each of the school wings can be automatically closed to block an intruder from reaching classroom areas. During a lockdown emergency, any doors that are propped open will be triggered electronically to swing shut. Classroom doors have dead bolts that automatically lock when closed, but release when a student or teacher needs to leave the room. The exterior features ample fenestration for daylighting and avoids a prison-like look.
The re-design of Dickinson Drive brings traffic in at the very north and center of the site, allowing a clear panoramic view as you enter.
Several compelling themes surfaced amidst discussions of the qualities of Newtown and Sandy Hook. One was the view of the Town from a distance, buildings and spires appearing above an undulating horizon of trees. The other was how the geology of water courses created the “sandy hook” after which the area was named.
From the main central lobby, vistas of nature appear between the classroom wings connecting the inside and outside with tree-like columns. (More on the design.)