More than 228,000 students in the United States have been affected by mass shootings since the tragic incident of Columbine Shooting back in 1999 when 13 students died, 20 suffered severe injuries and the culprits committed suicide. In 2018, 24 school shootings were recorded and 113 people were killed or injured.
The Fruitport High School will be re-designed, implementing shelters, cement barriers and curved hallways to reduce the casualties in a potential attack. Moreover, classrooms will be upgraded to provide a safe hiding place for students while a resistant film will cover the windows. The total cost of the project will reach $48 million.
School officials will be able to lock the doors at the push of a single button in case of an emergency. According to the school's superintendent, Bob Szymoniak, the new facility will be the safest structure in the state. The initiative was taken as the mass shootings incidents have been significantly increased in the past years.
"This building will be the safest, most secure building in the state of Michigan when it opens. These are going to be design elements that are just naturally part of [school] buildings going into the future. If I go to Fruitport High School and I want to be an active shooter, I'm going in knowing I have reduced sight lines. It has reduced his ability to do harm," Szymoniak stated.
According to Matt Slagle, an architect involved in the project and director of K-12 education projects at TowerPinkster, the modifications will increase the students' safety but there is no design that can totally eliminate the potential hazard. Shooters are usually also students or they are, at least, familiar with the school's spaces and therefore they can cause havoc. "Unfortunately that's the way things are now. We'll never make it completely safe from someone who desires to cause harm," Slagle said.
Slagle, whose company also designs prisons, added that the plan is to maintain an equilibrium between an environment of security and hospitality for the students.