School security part of design and construction of new Willoughby-Eastlake schools

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio-- The 1,400 students of Willoughby South High School are getting a brand new home. The new high school is set to open in fall of 2019.

While the sweeping curved walls and wide-open spaces in the architecture stand out, Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools Superintendent Steve Thompson says a 2018-built school needs strategy along with creativity.

“As you make areas open and accessible, how do you do that without compromising safety and security of staff and students?" Thompson explained.

A wall of windows in the student union purposely don’t face the outside.

“You can see this is an enclosed courtyard so they’ll have access to the sun and be able to come out into this courtyard and get out during the school day but not compromise safety,” Thompson said.

Even the school’s entrance is a security measure with a vestibule and background-check system everyone who enters must go through.

“It all integrates to different types of door hardware, security cameras, panic buttons,” said John Lonchyna, project manager.

Safety and security inside the school’s design goes much further than just the physical construction. Builders are also layering in technology to keep kids safe.

“This entire building will be electronically mapped so the police have the ability to pull that map up,” Thompson explained.

Police are able to see a virtual map of the school in their cruisers and then remotely control security cameras throughout the building to locate a suspect.

“The building is set up in sections so we’ll be able to lock a building down electronically and make it very difficult for an active shooter to move from one section of the building into another section,” Thompson said.

The district has invested $38 million into the new school. Thompson says at least a couple million is going to all the new security measures.

“I don’t want to go to bed tonight and neither does our school board not knowing that we haven’t done everything we can to keep our students safe so I think it’s worth it,” Thompson said.

In a unique partnership, the school is on the same campus as the YMCA and local senior center. The collaboration gives district schools access to a new pool and will eventually be a cost-saving measure.

Security between all three buildings is also a major focus for the district.