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South Kearns Elementary
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Granite School District reveals plans for new, safer school designs

South Kearns Elementary will be the first in Granite School District's new model of safe schools. (Photo courtesy of Granite School District)

We live in a different world from the one we lived in twenty years ago. There are a whole new set of worries to plague a parent’s mind when we send our children off to school that just didn’t exist before — but most of the schools we send them to are still in the same buildings we went to when we were kids.

That, at least, is what the administrators at Granite School District believe, and it’s the motivation behind their latest new project: safe schools that will help ensure kids can be protected if the worst should happen.

They’re working on a new design for South Kearns Elementary that they say is going to help teachers keep their kids safe in the event of an emergency.

In an exclusive interview with KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic, Granite School District Director of Communications Ben Horsley explained how the school works.

A single entry point

There will only be one way into South Kearns, Horsley says: through the front door. (Photo: Granite School District)

Anyone entering South Kearns Elementary will only have one option: they’ll have to use the front door.

“You used to be able to just walk into a school and walk down the hall and maybe not even see the front office in some of our layouts,” Horsley says. But letting people come into their schools without the front office even knowing about it, he says, causes serious problems.

Those aren’t once-in-a-lifetime problems, either. Once or twice a week, he says, there are problems caused by people disrupting school activities.

“It’s usually custodial parents arguing about a child,” Horsley says. “Like, who gets to get that child out.”

A single entry point, he says, will help administrators make sure any problems are dealt with at the front door before they can reach the classrooms.

Internal doors

South Kearns Elementary Internal Doors

A floorplan for South Kearns Elementary showing the internal doors connecting each classroom. (Photo: Granite School District)

If something does go wrong, Horsley says, students won’t be forced to try to escape through the same door an intruder is trying to enter.

Each classroom will have multiple exits, including internal doors that connect to the next classroom.

That design, Horsley believes, will make it a lot safer for kids to try to get out if somebody is trying to get in.

Floor-to-ceiling windows

Safe schools

Safe schools require teachers to be able to see what’s happening outside of their classrooms, Horsley says. (Photo: Granite School District)

Classrooms at South Kearn Elementary, Horsley says, will have massive, floor-to-ceiling windows.

It’s an idea he admits might sound “counter-intuitive” for safe schools, but he insists it works.

“Often, it’s better to understand situational awareness – what’s happening in your school – so you can get out and avoid that,” Horsley says.

Teachers, he says, need to know what’s going on outside of their classrooms to be able to respond in time to keep their kids safe from it.

“It’s not always about hunkering down,” Horsley says. “It’s also about getting away from the problem.”

Lockdown wings

Granite School District

A hallway in South Kearns Elementary. Each section of the school will have a lockdown door that lets administrators barricade off parts of the school. (Photo: Granite School District)

Just because the school will have big windows, however, doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to lock out intruders.

Each section of the school, Horsley says, will have massive lockdown doors that are something like garage doors. Teachers will be able to roll them down and block off whole sections of the school to keep a threat from moving.

Horsley believes that it’s important for safe schools to have both visibility and protection.

“You can’t just have one element,” he says. “You can’t have just one lock-the-door element or one window element. You have to have all of these things working in concert with one another to create a safe environment.”

More to the story

If you missed Dave & Dujanovic today from 9 a.m. to noon, you can still catch their interview with Ben Horsley and all the details on Granite School District’s plan for safer schools on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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