Safety & Security Features of New High School

March 2018

Dear VASD Students, Parents, Caregivers and Community members,
As the design process for our new high school has progressed, we've had some questions arise regarding school safety and security. These questions have increased with the publication in late January of a virtual fly-through of the preliminary building design. Then, following the horribly tragic events in Parkland, Florida, the number of questions and concerns regarding school safety and security has increased even more. Most of the concerns have been due to the amount of glass in the preliminary design.

The Board, administration, and design team have heard these concerns and have subsequently directed our architects to review the amount, location, and type of glass used in the building design. These redesign ideas will be vetted through the Visionary Design Team, a team of 15 high school staff members representing each of the various departments, representatives from the high school, as well as district level administration and the Board. The redesign ideas will then proceed to the full Board for formal action. The preliminary timeline for Board action on this topic is March 19th.

The following provides some background on how we arrived at the current building design.
Before the design work on our new high school began, the Visionary Design Team identified design principles to guide the work of the architects. The design principles identified by this group follows.

The new high school will be:
•A safe place which promotes the physical and emotional well-being of students and staff while minimizing the physical evidence of the most progressive safety and security features.
•A reflection of our diverse student body and feel welcoming and safe. The building will be inclusive and provide opportunity to unite students, staff & community.
•Responsive to the natural environment, embody efficiency and sustainable design, and maximize views, daylight exposure to learning spaces, and extensions to outdoor learning environments.
•Vibrant and universally engaging as it serves the mission of Verona Area School District. It will express our vision for progressive learning and work environments that thoughtfully consider light, color, material, and forward-thinking design.
•Adaptable so that it will flex to accommodate future growth, community partnerships, and the evolution of teaching and learning strategies. A variety of spaces will support innovation, collaborative thinking, and inspire creativity, self-discovery, and exploration.

In addition, more than 50 students, representing a wide variety of our student groups/organizations and athletics, met with the architects and more than 600 student survey responses produced the following design themes:
•Natural Daylight Outdoor Access
•Social & Collaborative Spaces
•Modern & Creative

With these principles as a guide, the architects went to work planning the design. Throughout the design process, the Board and Core Team (a team of VASD staff, Architects, Construction Managers, Board members) conducted dozens upon dozens of meetings with high school staff and city departments to review and revise the design and layout of the building and 150+ acres. The result of those meetings and planning has led us to a set of design documents that are nearly complete. In keeping with the design guidelines, our new high school utilizes extensive interior and exterior glass to accomplish those design features, with a special focus on natural daylight and collaboration. We understand that very design feature, the amount of interior and exterior glass, is of concern to some parents and staff.

 To reiterate what was stated above, the Board, administration, and design team have heard these concerns and subsequently directed our architects to review the amount, location, and type of glass used in the current new building design.

Click here to view a preliminary list of the security features and practices planned for our new high school. Three major features gleaned from this list include:
•Just One Building to Secure: Students will not be walking between two separate buildings.
•Multiple "Layers" of Secure Zones in the Building: The building has multiple secure zones, on each level, that have been designed to limit an intruder's movement.
•Integrated Security and Building Management Technology: Building systems utilize the best of current integrated technology, allowing staff and first responders to track an intruder's movement and provide direction to students and staff.

Lastly, the City of Verona Plan Commission conducted a review of the site plans (grounds and exterior components of the new high school design) at their meeting on March 5th. Since the scope of their authority does not include interior design, the Board scheduled a separate community listening session on March 15, to provide students, staff, parents and community members additional opportunities to provide input and ask any questions they may have on safety and security. 

We appreciate all the input and feedback that has been provided to date. We recognize that the decisions made in the design of our new high school will have a long term, lasting impact on our students, staff, and community. It remains our goal to deliver the best possible learning facility that also keeps everyone safe.
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