Back to School Safety with K-12 Leader, Steve Raugh

Trang Vu By: Trang Vu

Due to recent tragic events, student safety has been a hot topic of discussion among parents, school officials, and students. I sat down with our K-12 Education Practice leader, Steve Raugh, to get his perspective on designing a safe school site for the future generations. Steve has designed hundreds of school sites in the K-12 sector over his 26-year career, and he loves safe school sites almost as much as he loves pumpkin pie! So, check out what Steve had to say about making our schools safer for current and future students.

Q: Hey Steve! You’ve been designing school sites for a long time. What would you say is the most imperative for designing a safe site?

Steve: Yes, the time just flies by, I tell ya! There are a lot of factors that make a school site holistically safe, but I would have to say visibility plays the biggest role in that. Visibility from all perspectives of a school site allow for school staff to continuously monitor the grounds while classes are in session.

Q: What suggestions do you have that school staff can implement to enhance the site and keep students safe while learning?

Steve: For starters, when it’s difficult to see who comes and goes on school grounds then it’s tough to defend against any unwanted intruders.  Steve Tip #1: Establish prominent building entry points during school hours. To do this, schools should be designed with the administrative offices positioned in the front of the building with clear visibility of the outside.  Also keeping all other building entry points locked and requiring everyone to check-in at the administrative offices before proceeding throughout the building gives the administrative team the visibility and authority of those coming in and out of the building.

Having those beautiful big windows for an easy view of the outside grounds is a huge plus, but if you don’t have proper lighting outside, those huge windows don’t make much sense. Steve Tip #2: Install campus lighting around the property.  Just being able to see the grounds clearly allows school staff to monitor it properly. So, in the winter when it gets dark at 5pm, proper lighting on school grounds makes it easy to spot suspicious activity, even in the dark.

Q: Alright, I can get behind that. So true - visibility goes hand in hand with surveillance. But you’re not saying let’s just design fortified schools in open fields, as that’s not practical or hospitable for students.  What about vegetation and landscaping?

Steve: Of course not! Every welcoming school has beautiful landscaping that enhances the site. That’s why we have a whole division dedicated to the beautification of landscapes! Steve Tip #3: Strategic landscaping enables easy surveillance without providing hiding places for intruders. I would suggest planting low prickly shrubs and keeping trees limbed-up so that those unwanted visitors can’t hide behind a tall bush or leafy tree.  Also, this keeps the grounds looking neat and clean, so win-win there – continuous maintenance and safety surveillance!


Q: I love a two-fer! But in this age of technology, how do you think schools can use technology to add another aspect of security?

Steve: One person can only be monitoring one side of the building at once.  Steve Tip #4: Install security cameras and signage notifying visitors that the building is under constant surveillance. Strategically installing security cameras around the perimeter and at all entry/exit points of the building enables the administrative team to see the visitors as they approach or leave the building.  This also helps to scope out any suspicious behavior going on outside that needs to be remediated or further monitored.

At the end of every school day, we as concerned parents, school officials, and citizens, all want our students home safely.  Ensuring a safe learning environment is always our number 1 priority as a team, and the safety of our students will always be the most important factor so that they feel safe in a place where they will, ultimately, spend almost 1/3 of their adolescent life.

To see Timmons Group's K-12 school projects,
check this out.