Thursday, November 1, 2012

The New Normal for School Entrances?

     Much has changed since the designers of Cashton Elementary School first worked with community stakeholders and district leadership to draft the plans for the core of our current buildings in the early 1950's and 1960's.  Many local residents remember the significant change the construction of a centralized elementary school in the Village of Cashton represented.  After many years of growth, consolidation, and change among the several outlying rural schools that had served the region well such as Melvina, Portland, Clinton Center School, Clinton Ridge School, and the Clements School just to name a few, the moment came when citizens recognized a need for realignment to continue to meet their collective vision for education in the Cashton area.  That facility has served us well for many years.

     In the last few decades, the needs of our community have continued to shift with new challenges, opportunities, and technologies while continuing to embrace a culture rooted in the values and norms that appeal to area families.  Those changes have reshaped our facilities a great deal since their original construction.  Recently, a conversation has been started among area citizens that explores the alignment between the mission, vision, and purpose for the district updated by community members in 2008 and currently available information from external reports projecting population growth, current building conditions, and economic factors such as record low interest rates and the nearly repaid loans from the 1998 building projects.  The conversation will soon expand as citizens share their perceptions and values through the largest survey in the district's history.

     School leaders are working to inform citizens of the strengths and challenges of current facilities and to help provide useful and accurate information from which to base perceptions, opinions, and decisions.  One topic of discussion has involved the current structure and design of entrances to both school buildings.  While functional, the entrances were designed during an era that faced different challenges and expectations.  Entry to each building has since been limited to one main entrance which has been retrofitted with security cameras.  In addition, the elementary office has been reconfigured to provide better observation of traffic through the main entry.  These actions have improved school safety, but it is interesting to learn how architects have addressed the problem when designing new structures or additions.  In the upcoming survey, community members will be asked whether they support increasing the safety of school entrances.  The examples below illustrate how structural changes can potentially improve school safety.

     School improvement projects in neighboring districts incorporated updated design elements that Cashton citizens could consider.  In the examples below, you will notice an updated school entry design used at Bangor Elementary School and the NOW Elementary / Brookwood High School facility.  Each example has the traditional interior and exterior doors common in commercial buildings and both Cashton school buildings.  However, the examples pictured below have an additional design element, an additional doorway used to divert entrance to the building through the main office during school hours.  During the high traffic periods such as morning drop-off or dismissal, the interior and exterior doors are unlocked.  For the remainder of the day, the outer doors are unlocked while the inner doors are locked.  Entry to the building is then diverted directly into the school office.  The design balances the need for appropriate building access, but prohibits unauthorized or unexpected access during school hours.  As citizens consider their position on school entrance updates, perhaps the images below will help one better understand the options.

Exterior doors of main Bangor Elementary entrance.  During high
traffic periods, these doors and the interior set behind them are
both unlocked for efficient access.

This image shows the view of the entrance from
inside the elementary office.  The exterior doors
are visible through the glass.

Access to the building during non-peak
periods is through this door into
the main office.  This image shows
the area between the interior and exterior

Brookwood/NOW entryway:  This image shows the area
between the interior and exterior doors and the
access to the main office that is used during school
From inside N-O-W, the interior doors are visible to the
left.  Through the glass, you can see the diverting
entrance through the main office that is used during school
hours.  The wooden door is the interior access to the main

The view from the main office depicts the two doors that
connect the exterior entrance to the interior of the school
facility through the office.