School design prompts safety concerns

The Virginia Gazette

The United States has now experienced mass shootings in a night club, theaters, a church, military installations, a university and more than one school. Approval of the proposed design of James Blair Middle School featuring interior glass walls for six-room "neighborhoods" within the school looking out on their communal "collaborative space" would be a criminal act on the part of W-JCC School Board members, and the members of the governing bodies of the City and County which must approve the funding for its construction.

While some current academic facility construction concepts include electronic locks for classrooms as a security measure, of what use would those be against a shooter who gained access to the building and a single "neighborhood,'' leaving totally exposed at once all of his potential victims. The slaughter could be truly horrific. It is time for common sense to triumph over "vision" for the avant garde in design. The board would be well advised to seek to have the design vetted by the public safety officials of the two localities and by the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the Commonwealth, such review to be limited to issues of security.

Treading cautiously is particularly appropriate for a school board and administration carrying the history of a former adverse experience with a chosen school architect. That one failed to supervise the building contractor as required in the architect's contract, resulting in the layout of the gymnasium substantially undersized in comparison to the plan. Though discovered before the walls were put up, this same superintendent gave the go-ahead to proceed, which was truly beyond his authority. While some dollar recovery was achieved from the architectural firm, the community was "on the hook" permanently with an undersized facility. The stakes in this case are far greater.

Ward C. Bourn


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