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How one high school is renovating its building to impede school shooters

An architect's sketch of floor plans for the new Fruitport High School
Courtesy of Bob Szymoniak
An architect's sketch of floor plans for the new Fruitport High School, which features curved hallways and other features aimed at reducing the damage a mass shooter could inflict.

In the midst of the ongoing national discussion over mass shootings and school safety, one district in West Michigan is taking a new approach to protect its students.

Fruitport High School in Muskegon County is undergoing major renovations designed, in part, to reduce the impact and potential damage from a mass shooter.

Bob Szymoniak is the Superintendent of Fruitport Community Schools. He says that the $48 million overhaul of Fruitport’s existing high school, which was built in the early 1950s, is being led by an architect who has experience implementing discreet security design elements. 

“We put these things in place in such a way that if you looked at them, you didn’t know that is a security measure,” Szymoniak said. “For that specific reason, we want students to feel that the school is warm and welcoming, not some type of refuge or bunker to keep them safe.” 

Szymoniak says that the new Fruitport High School will be equipped with the following safety features:

  • Curved corridors to “reduce the sight lines” of an active shooter.
  • “Wing walls” that “stick out perpendicularly” about four feet from main walls in corridors and in classrooms to reduce sight lines and serve as a place for students to hide.
  • Glass coated with impact-resistant film and an access control system that would allow administrators to lock the entire building down “with the push of a button.” 

These designs are meant not to stop a potential mass shooter, but to serve as barriers that will slow that person down and “minimize the damage they can do.”
Szymoniak hopes that safety designs like the ones at Fruitport’s new high school become more common, and he suspects they will be if mass shootings continue in the U.S. 

“I think that it’s only responsible that school districts and communities do what they can to incorporate security measures into their schools to keep the students safe,” Szymoniak said.

Fruitport High School students and staff will start using the newly-constructed classrooms and cafeteria in January 2020. The entire renovation project will wrap up during the summer of 2021.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas.

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