How School Safety Impacts Building Design

School safety has been a key topic of conversation in our communities and at the Capitol, as Minnesota legislators seek to help schools address rising concerns regarding security and the well-being of students.

Today’s students go to school with a far different reality than I did. Lockdown drills have become as common as tornado and fire drills. Schools also regularly implement programs to prevent bullying and build a positive school climate.

While fears around active shootings may be driving much of the conversation, the strategies can also help with bullying, fights and other day-to-day threats.


We’re building and remodeling schools around a new model of threat. In the case of an active threat law enforcement officials advocate that school staff and students make every attempt to RUN if the opportunity presents itself. If RUN is not an option, then students are to hide, and, if needed, fight to best protect themselves. Fleeing the area is the best survival strategy.

The challenge is that many schools are not built to effectively use that strategy. It calls for a different facility design that focuses on giving staff and students more time to respond to a threat. The farther you can see, the better.

How do we create safe environments given that reality? It’s a shift that often means more glass and a greater transparency within schools. Fortunately, this is the same shift in school design that fits next century teaching principles. View ways schools are improving safety.

In addition to more visibility, schools have used compartmentalization within buildings to create a safer and more secure environment. It allows them to lock off certain parts of buildings as needed when hosting events. In the case of a threat, it gives students and staff more time to exit RUN


Schools have leveraged next century facility design to assist with bullying, fights, vandalism and other day-to-day threats students face by helping to create a more transparent and positive school climate. When schools increase the ability to see and be seen within the building, they reduce the day-to-day challenges to school safety as well.

The Minnesota Legislature seems committed to offer some assistance to schools, whether through state bonding dollars or another means. The question is will it be enough to address even the physical building challenges?

Better securing our schools takes a significant investment. A secure entry alone could cost a school $500,000 or more. The current proposals at the Legislature would not come close to providing schools enough resources to implement this.


There is not a “one size fits all” method to improving school safety. It takes a multi-faceted approach to achieve results. Getting it right requires a combination of physical space improvements, updates and adherence to policy, constant vigilance and, just like with the fire drills, practice.

The best approach varies by school. Request a free planning assessment for your facility.

Learn more about creating a Quickstart Facility Action Plan.