Houston area architecture firm PBK assisting Uvalde CISD in making schools more safe

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – One local architecture firm is working to help Uvalde CISD in making its schools more safe.

PBK Architects Inc. has been designing schools for more than 40 years and is leading the industry in school security and design.

In 2018, PBK created a coalition of the best school security experts including dozens of school district police chiefs and law enforcement leaders from across the state. Together, they created a list of “best practices” when it comes to school design.

When Uvalde CISD reached out for help, PBK answered the call and toured Uvalde CISD, offering its analysis and design to help.

“We were asked to participate with Uvalde CISD by looking at their campuses to explore supplemental safety things, which they might want to consider,” said PBK Managing Partner Ian Powell. “We were so humbled and gratified that they considered us the individuals to call.”

KPRC2 first spoke with PBK in 2018 when PBK led efforts to create action and dialogue following a string of school shootings. PBK then started the Texas School Safety and Security Council, comprised of dozens of school district police chiefs and law enforcement leaders who came together to discuss and brainstorm with PBK and come up with a specific list.

“To build the best practices for school design and school safety,” Powell said.

When Uvalde CISD’s tragedy happened, PBK did not hesitate to share what they had learned and offer their services.

“We shared with them what we’re calling the ‘32 best practices,’ built by school chiefs of police,” Powell said.

Just last week, Powell and PBK went to Uvalde CISD to assess what more the district can do.

“We went through seven schools that day, interviewed some individuals to ask about vulnerabilities and circumstances that they would work on, if they could, and then form our own impressions about certain parts of the campuses,” Powell said.

PBK is providing its analysis at no charge. They said building safe schools is their passion and helping in times of need is simply the right thing to do. Many of Uvalde’s buildings are 40 to 60 years old.

“Most of them have separate eight to ten classroom wings and the doors open to the exterior,” Powell said. “You’re trying to safeguard four buildings, not the perimeter of one building.”

Powell said it all comes down to intentional design and leveraging factors like school layout, what school staff will be able to see and how long it would take for the intruder to move and for police to respond.

“Reduce the time that law enforcement has to react and extend the time of the perpetrator before he is able to do damage,” Powell explained.

Powell said PBK will do everything it can to help Uvalde CISD. PBK said it ultimately hopes to help schools achieve something very important.

“A safe and welcoming school district and facilities in the future,” Powell said. “Increasing the toolbox of solutions they can put in place.”