A Michigan High School Is Redesigned to Protect Students from Mass Shooters

TowerPinkster unveils a potentially new norm for American schools.

Nathan Bahadursingh Nathan Bahadursingh

A grim response to a grim reality; a western Michigan high school is undergoing a $48 million renovation and expansion to better fortify it in the event of a mass shooter. Headed by the K-12 team at TowerPinkster, Fruitport High School will undergo a complete makeover in a push to enhance safety with the addition of 143,879 square feet of new space.

Layout of the expansion and remodel; image via The Architect’s Newspaper

According to The Architect’s Newspaper, TowerPinkster — an architecture, engineering and interiors firm with expertise in educational spaces — worked with the National Institute of Crime Prevention to learn the most effective ways to secure the school. Moving away from narrow corridors and cramped gathering spaces, elements that work to the advantage of gunmen, the plan outlines a two-story, curved academic wing designed to reduce the sight-lines of an armed attacker.

Each classroom will have the ability to lock on demand and will be equipped with “shadow zones” where students and faculty can hide without being seen. Shatter-proof safety film will cover those windows that do look into classrooms, and further coverage is provided with cement block “wing walls” that will stick out next to all doors. 

Rendering of proposed classroom; image via The Architect’s Newspaper

Transparency and inclusivity are the primary security strategies TowerPinkster has pursued for Fruitport High School’s transformation. According to the Washington Post, The front office will take a panopticon-esque function as its new, open format, looking directly at the parking lot, will provide an office administrator views of the main passageway, vestibule, and some of the hallways. Administrators will also be able to lock down all classrooms, the office entrance, and the vestibule door to the office through a three button system. 

Fruitport High School’s open and defended layout; image via The Architect’s Newspaper

Given the proliferation of mass shootings in the United States coupled with polarized positions on gun reform, modifying schools to be better protected from potential gun-related tragedies seems like a logical, yet unfortunate, safeguard to emplace. However, such ubiquity and transparency for the sake of security resembles the qualities present in a prison.

Though TowerPinkster claim to have struck a balance between security and a welcoming presence, it remains to be seen how Fruitport High School’s precautions will impact the experiences of its students, whether educationally or socially. For better or worse, this western Michigan high school design may become the new norm for schools across the country. The project is currently under construction and is expected for completion in 2021.

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