HOUSTON – After the Florida school shooting, a local leading architecture firm is bringing safety and security experts from all over the region to the table to make sure their designs are truly working to keep students safe.
This firm says its goal is to design with intention, and when it comes to school safety, they say it makes sense to bring the best of the best together to answer parents' concerns.
"[Safety in schools is] just something that every parent gets concerned about. Especially safety with our kids. It's something we're concerned about especially now," said Janet Ortega, whose daughter goes to Barrington Place Elementary School.
As eyes are on schools, and if schools are safe, leading architecture firm PBK is pushing forward, asking the question, "What more can be done?"
"Being designers of schools we felt the responsibility," said President and CEO Dan Boggio.
PBK is creating a new committee to be the "go-to" committee for those seeking advice on safety and security in schools. The committee would also advise architects with school design.
"Our vision is to get together to bring all of the chiefs of police of the major districts and take advantage of all their experience--everyone of them," Boggio said. "To get all these experts together and to create the 'Best Practices' for the Gulf Coast area is something that currently doesn't exist. We think it's going to be very important."
The committee would meet quarterly and be comprised of around 10-15 people including major ISD chiefs, HPD and Harris County Sheriff's deputies. Bringing that team together is a man who was once tasked with starting the Cy-Fair ISD Police Department from nothing: Chief Alan Bragg. Bragg has 45 years in the law enforcement field, serving at HISD as a lieutenant for nine years, then went on the be the chief at Spring ISD for more than 20 years and then Cy-Fair ISD police chief.
"The one big thing [for this new committee] is to make sure we're all on the same page," Bragg said. "To make sure we're talking the same language and the same solutions."
The team will come up with 10 of the best practices regarding school safety.
Some of those will include communication, secured vestibules and good camera systems.
"We will discuss security systems in schools, how to improve what they have, how to get those systems installed," Bragg said.
"We'll actually be taking those new recommendations and be incorporating them into our new designs," Boggio said.
PBK is also focusing on helping older schools retrofit some of the security measures. Boggio said there is a big demand after the Florida incident.
Cy Fair ISD's Cypress Park High School is a model for school security. It has multi-use cameras, a panic button, a secured vestibule, strategic environmental design and more. Law enforcement helped with design.
"The environmental design helps to minimize hiding locations for individuals with ill intent. The designs for the buildings, the curvatures, the lines of sight all help to provide safety and security for our students and help us because we are afforded those same lines of sight," Mendez said.
The committee would also help build a network of responders willing to help in any active shooter situation.
"Memorandums of understanding are required by law, but having a meeting quarterly, and seeing those people face to face and having a chance to talk to them--we're all on the same page, same concept and the same goal," Bragg said.
PBK said the findings of this committee will be shared with everyone.
"This is what we live for -- So any information that we have that can help other schools-- we're going to share it with them," Boggio said.
PBK leaders hope this committee will be a resource to the community. The first meeting will be in mid-June.