A Michigan high school features mass shooter defenses in its design


A rendering provided by Fruitport Community Schools shows how classrooms were designed with shooter sight lines in mind. - COURTESY OF FRUITPORT COMMUNITY SCHOOLS
  • Courtesy of Fruitport Community Schools
  • A rendering provided by Fruitport Community Schools shows how classrooms were designed with shooter sight lines in mind.

School shootings have become so commonplace that a Michigan high school has been designed with the possibility of one in mind.

The half-completed $48 million renovation at Fruitport High School in Muskegon County features curved hallways that reduce the line of sight of a potential mass shooter, wireless locking systems, and classrooms with "shadow zones" that would provide hiding cover for students and staff.

But Fruitport Community Schools Superintendent Bob Szymoniak says the design elements are meant to be discreet.

"It is important to do this work in such a way that it is not a constant reminder of the potential of an active shooter," Szymoniak told MLive earlier this week. "We want students coming to school excited to learn, not in fear of what could happen because of an active shooter."

  • Courtesy of Fruitport Community Schools

Still, that these features are even being incorporated into the school's remodel is a ghoulish reminder of the gun crisis in the U.S. There have been four school shootings in the country so far this year. Last year, there were 11. Twenty years ago, two students murdered 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado.

"It is only responsible that we do what we can to minimize the harm done should, God forbid, an active shooter come to one of our schools," Szymoniak added. "The features do not require training, but provide a natural defense, make sense, and would be quickly utilized for protection."

The project was designed by TowerPinkster, which partnered with the National Institute of Crime Prevention to inform its design. The project is CPTED-certified, referring to the practice of "Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design." TowerPinkster says it has the most CPTED-certified architects in Michigan and implements these practices in all of its designs.

A media kit provided to Metro Times describes the philosophy behind CPTED:

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is defined as a multi-disciplinary approach for reducing crime through urban and environmental design and the management and use of built environments. CPTED strategies aim to reduce victimization, deter offender decisions that precede criminal acts, and build a sense of community among inhabitants so they can gain territorial control of areas and reduce opportunities for crime and fear of crime. CPTED is pronounced ‘sep-ted’ and it is known around the world as Designing Out Crime, defensible space, and other similar terms.

The new semester at Fruitport started on Tuesday, with a portion of the under-construction school in use. Construction is expected to be completed in 2021.

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