How the Architects of the New Sandy Hook Elementary School Addressed the Town’s Past, and Its Future

The former Sandy Hook Elementary School building was demolished in October 2013. The former Sandy Hook Elementary School building was demolished in October 2013. Jessica Hill / AP Photo

For residents of Newtown, Connecticut, the small town devastated by a deadly school shooting nearly two years ago, replacing Sandy Hook Elementary School was going to require more than a tear-down and a simple redesign.

Working with the theme “We Choose Love,” the architecture firm Svigals + Partners met with 50 parents, school employees, and townspeople to design a new school that not only would be outfitted with tighter security measures but would be restorative to the town—to feel not like a fortress but a place of education and communal gathering. (Architects who rebuilt the library at Columbine High School in Colorado, the site of a 1999 school shooting, similarly found that for locals, the rebuilding process was a therapeutic part of relieving their grief.)

If all goes according to plan, the new Sandy Hook Elementary, a $50 million project funded by the state, will open to students in the fall of 2016. Here are some elements of the new design.

Segregated entryways and parking lots

Shaped like an “E” to maximize evacuation routes, the school will have only three entrances: one main entrance, plus one for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students and one leading to public areas like the cafeteria and auditorium. The doorways will be reached by crossing bridges that are connected to the parking lots and bus drop-off areas. Though the bridges alone wouldn’t prevent an attacker from entering the school, they offer a good way for staff to monitor the traffic flow and notice if anybody looks out of place.

Staff and visitors will use different parking lots. Only cleared staff can gain entry into the staff parking lot. They will enter by key fob, freeing up security guards to focus more on visitors.

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