5 Everyday Safety Risks at School (And How Design Can Help Solve Them)
Administrators and parents alike are inundated with news of sad or terrifying behavior-related incidents that occur on school grounds. Bullying, harassment, custody issues, and active shooters are real concerns that can be mitigated through both design solutions and protocol. But design can also mitigate the risk of common accidents that occur on school property in areas like Parking Lots & Drives, Science Labs & Maker Spaces, Playgrounds, Athletic Fields, and Special Education Classrooms.
This first article in our series will address parking lot & drive safety. Catch up on the other articles in our series: Science Lab Safety, Playground Safety, Special Education Classroom Safety, and Athletic Field Safety.
Risk 1: Parking Lots & Drives
Nate Bosch, Landscape Architect
Getting kids safely to school each day doesn’t end when they arrive on site. A safe site provides clarity to visitors, parents, and students about how to navigate parking lots, sidewalks, and drives. A well-designed site will also direct people to a singular entrance, which contributes to building safety.
Parents driving children to school is increasingly common in all kinds of districts. A 2014 study showed that roughly half of all American students are traveling to school in a car in the morning.1 Cars need clear traffic routes that are separate from bus traffic. This can mitigate accidents and reduce congestion.
Some communities are making an effort to encourage students to walk or bike to school. Between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of students walking to school increased from 11.9% to 15.2%, and the percentage of students walking home from school increased from 15.2% to 18.4%.2 Encouraging exercise and independence are great, but it introduces new risk. We can't solve kids' impulsive behavior. But creating clear paths from the sidewalk to the building can keep kids out of the way of bus and car traffic.
Each school site is unique, even within the same community. Good site design considers where a school is located within the community and what busing options are available. These factors influence the layout of spaces for drivers, buses, and pedestrians.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School. "Trends in Walking and Bicycling to School from 2007 to 2014". October 2016. pp. 6. http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/pdf/Community_SRTSfederal_Trends.pdf.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School. "Trends in Walking and Bicycling to School from 2007 to 2014". October 2016. pp. 5. http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/pdf/Community_SRTSfederal_Trends.pdf.