Helena School District’s Safety and Security Upgrades

Project overview

CWG Architecture was chosen to assist the Helena School District in planning, designing, and coordinating a much-needed safety and security upgrade for Helena’s K-8 schools. CWG’s goal was to cut down on emergency response time, monitor public access, and integrate a 21st century security network system across the entire K-8 district to have every school function and operate at the highest safety standards. The Helena School District is dealing with aging infrastructure and facilities, with the average building being 69 years old. These original buildings were not designed with modern security concerns in mind, so the CWG team had to get creative with how to retrofit these buildings to include up to date technology so they would safely serve the community for decades to come.

Process

  • In the fall of 2014, CWG Architecture was asked to assist the Helena School District with a facilities workshop designed to gather public involvement and input into the long-range planning and visioning of Helena’s public schools. Since the project was funded by a bond that needed to be voted on, it was important to understand the public’s comments and concerns.
  • In 2015, a safety and security bond was passed, which not only included the technological side of security, but also the physical building aspects that go hand-in-hand with providing a safe learning environment.
  • In 2016, construction began on the eleven K-8 schools with an extremely condensed time frame to minimize disruptions to the classroom.

Outcome

The project was completed at the end of the summer of 2020, just prior to the start of the school year. Each individual school building had safety priorities assessed to determine any special security issues that were present. As a result, many of the school’s main entries were reconfigured to limit and even restrict secondary access points to better control building accessibility. By addressing each building’s needs individually, it helps ensure that the 5,000 K-8 students who currently attend these schools will be equally as safe at each location. Some of the upgrades include the schools being able to lock all their doors at the push of a button, instant communication between the superintendent, schools, law enforcement, and parents, a keyless entry system that uses faculty badges to access school buildings, and electronic reader boards for instant messaging. For future planning, it was important that any of the technology or security system improvements could be moved if the school is renovated or replaced with a new building.