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Plan would take step to better Hampton school safety

| Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

The Hampton Township School Board heard plans to put captured vestibules at three of the district's school buildings to improve safety and visibility at the schools.

Dan Engen and Tom Durkin of VEBH Architects, based in Mt. Lebanon, presented the school board with plans to put captured vestibules at Central and Wyland Elementary Schools and Hampton Middle School at a special meeting Nov. 24.

Each building would have a captured vestibule, or “badge” area, where visitors could enter a secure room separate from the main building but attached to the main office, where they would be screened, signed in and receive a visitors badge.

Visitors would then enter the building or be sequestered in the main office.

“Most of this is prevention,” Engen said. “We want to feel open. We're a great school district, we're a friendly community, but everyone wants to feel safe and make sure their kids feel safe, as well.”

Each badge room would have a rolling administrative cart where parents could drop off items such as forgotten lunches, homework and band instruments for children and leave without entering the building. Building secretaries would be in the main office but have a window that connects them to the badge room.

The plans for captured vestibules at Central, Wyland and the middle school grew out of a feasibility study completed by VEBH earlier this year to explore options to remodel the high school.

The high school is slated to get a captured vestibule as part of the larger review and remodeling that still is being discussed. Poff Elementary received a captured vestibule when the building was remodeled several years ago.

If the board votes in December to go ahead with VEBH's plans, the project would likely be put out for bids in the spring, and construction would take place over the 2015 summer vacation.

The total project cost is estimated at $991,934. It would be funded through money that has been set aside for capital projects.

“We're in good shape economically for the project,” district Superintendent John Hoover said.

The new system also would streamline the process of screening visitors while making it more secure, Engen said. Through interviews with the elementary school secretaries, it became clear that ushering in visitors, screening them and sending them to the right place took up a significant amount of time throughout the day.

“The current system invites more small talk and chatter,” Hoover said. “We want to create environments that are welcoming to people, but we also want them to understand that it's a business office, and they're trying to get work done.”

The remodeling at Central, Wyland and the middle school also would rearrange the main office areas to some extent in order to fit the new captured vestibules.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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