Facility Planning: Controlled Access

At one time, schools were designed to be strictly education facilities, to withstand and be protected against vandalism. Today, schools have other security concerns, and many have electronic surveillance systems and metal detectors. Off-duty police patrol schools, and security personnel monitor visitors.

Although school staff want easy access for visitors to the main office with passive surveillance of the main entry, this design concept isn't enough to provide the desired security.

As schools report more violence, safety and security measures have become more sophisticated. Schools in the design stage are relocating the main office reception area. Existing schools are being remodeled to create controlled-access entries. Examples:

  • A controlled-access entry funnels people entering a school directly into the administration reception areas.

  • The main entry vestibule contains two sets of doors — one that enters directly into the school and one that directs people through the administration reception area.

  • During arrival times, the main entry is unlocked — after student arrival, all entries are locked, and entry is required through administration.

  • While school is in session, all exterior doors are locked.

  • After-school use is monitored through the main entry.

  • Authorized staff can use a key-card system to enter the school.

Controlling access to an open campus setting is complex. Examples exist of buildings with a fence or wall constructed between buildings to control access. Multiple buildings can be controlled from a central administration supervising entry to other buildings through audiovisual monitoring with a buzzer entry.

Some benefits of controlled-access entries:

  • Safety for students and staff.

  • Monitoring checkpoint for students and visitors arriving after school has started.

  • Flexibility for multiple uses of the school.

  • Mobility and efficiency for staff to multi-task as all administrative personnel are available for passive supervision and security.

  • Welcoming and friendly atmosphere as visitors are greeted with a personal reception from staff.

  • Easy navigation to the administration.

The education environment and process now is influenced greatly by safety and security concerns. Considering the transition of the educational environment as incidents have become more violent, will the next phase beyond controlled-access entries lead to a higher degree of security? Today, more than ever, new ideas must be put into action to provide a safe haven for students and staff.

Rydeen, FAIA, is an architect/facility planning specialist and former president of Armstrong, Torseth, Skold & Rydeen, Inc. (ATS&R), Minneapolis. He can be reached at [email protected].

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