The new Sandy Hook Elementary School will be a "model'' for the type of security required to be built into all school construction in this state, and likely others, for the foreseeable future, said the town's building and site commission leader.
"We'll be on the forefront," said Public Building and Site Commisson Chairman Robert Mitchell, a Southbury architect.
The state Department of Administrative Services released a final draft of its School Safety Infrastructure Council report last week, which sets standards for areas including: surveillance; parking and driving/walking routes to the school; recreational areas and communication.
The report highlights some of the measures, including external video surveillance with unobstructed views, automatic locking classroom doors, higher windows, blast-proof glass in entranceways and improved internal communication systems, as well as parking area criteria and fencing around buildings.
It calls for playgrounds to be set away from roadways and in direct line of sight of surveillance equipment.
"While the work of the SSIC is born of the events in Newtown involving a rogue shooter, other potential threats, both natural and manmade, have led the Council to consider an "all hazards" approach to school design and security standards," the report states. "As a result, the Council has broadened the preventive design standards to incorporate the most up to date seismic and weather related design requirements, while also considering architectural and design deterrents to terrorists, environmental and chemical accidents or attacks."
Mitchell and fellow town and school leaders played a lead role in coming up with the school safety protocols that will be required for all new school construction. They also met with the federal Department of Homeland Security about security issues.
On Dec. 14, 2012, gunman Adam Lanza was able to fire a high-powered weapon through the front entrance glass to bypass a locked front entrance door. Classroom doors did not have automatic locks. Exterior security surveillance and internal communications were not as extensive as will now be required, according to the report.
To date, school construction guidelines across the state had not featured specific security requirements. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, however, that has changed.
Now school districts seeking to qualify for the $600 million spent annually to build and renovate schools must comply with the new safety regulations to qualify for those funds. The standards will go into effect for projects approved for funding after June.
One of the advantages of these new requirements is that school districts that might not have been able to afford state-of-the-art security will be reimbursed for it, Mitchell said.
Some of the security proposals have long been part of private and corporate facilities, but never considered necessary for schools, Mitchell said. Newtown changed the conversation, he said.
Mitchell and local school district officials have stated that this report was intended to provide security parameters without interfering with the educational atmosphere children and families have come to know.
"Overall, I think what is proposed is clear and reasonable,'' Mitchell said.
In Newtown, school construction is already underway, with the former school demolished prior to the anniversary of the shootings that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and six of their educators. Architects and engineers are currently in the design phase, with the district providing the particular educational specifications related to what must be in the school to meet educational needs. All of that, as well as the security measures to be a prototype for other schools, will be part of the formal design plans that will lead to what is actually built.
Mitchell said the architects are considering where to place the school building on the 12-acre site -- it will not be in the same spot as the former school -- and there will be proposals of both one-story and two-story designs.
Technology will clearly help Newtown and other districts provide some of the security measures that have not in the past existed in schools, Mitchell said.
"It will be an evolving process,'' Mitchell said.