In Newton, plans for kindergarten classrooms at the new Angier Elementary School initially kept with tradition: They would be on the ground floor, providing easy access for parents and a short walk to the outdoors for the school’s youngest children.
After the gunman charged into the Sandy Hook school and killed 26 children and adults, many of them in classrooms close to that school’s entrance, the district started exploring other options.
Now Angier’s design calls for all students to be in classrooms on the second and third floors, above the cafeteria and gymnasium — and at least a flight of stairs away from potentially dangerous intruders.
“It works out, safety-wise,” said Angier’s principal, Loreta Lamberti, who also sees educational benefits to the new design.
For Emily Prenner, a parent of an Angier student and member of the school’s building committee, the new design will not detract from the sense of community at the school.
The principal, teachers, parents, and neighbors help create a tight-knit community around a school, not where the classrooms are located, Prenner said.
“We have an opportunity to start from scratch,” she said. “I would like Angier to be a secure building.”
For now, communities are taking their own lessons from Newtown and applying them in a variety of ways to new building projects.
Despite a robust school construction environment, there are few guides for districts looking for best practices on building security, LaPosta said.
While the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which partners with communities to build schools, specifies the size of classrooms and how much should be spent on construction costs, security factors are left up to each individual school district.
“Each district would have their preference of what they want,” said Matt Donovan, a spokesman for the authority.
Still, in Connecticut, the governor’s security panel suggested that the state develop a set of basic criteria for safe school buildings, LaPosta said.
“It doesn’t exist now, but probably should,” LaPosta said.