I may as well tell you at the outset that there will be no little red school houses being built these days.  In fact, the bigger-than-life school houses being built today are practically a reaction against any smaller schools that were built earlier.  One large reason for the newer and larger public school buildings is continued centralization and population growth in America’s suburban cities. Another reason – unfortunately – is student safety in an age of emerging violence from both Human Nature and Mother Nature.

At the same time, fading into antiquity are the glass motifs of buildings including school buildings that had once been inspired by what had been described as architectural modernists such as Philip Johnson and Edward Larrabee Barnes.

The main reason? Because glass is not safe in today’s world of natural and human violence. It should not be surprising that one of the great goals of the new school construction is the enhancement of student safety.  In the construction of the new Sandy Hook School, following massacre by an assassin four years ago in the original building, new subtle safety buffers have now been brought in against the possibility of any direct assault in the future. A constructed rain garden into at the school, for example, complicates the possibility of assaulting the school in the same kind of manner of the 2012 attack.

In Southern California, the new safety issue of the way schools are built was highlighted when it was discovered the same Isis-inspired terrorist group who created a slaughterhouse of a San Bernardino county office party had earlier stalked a local public school for a possibly even greater murder.  What is particularly important to understand is the pledge of Isis to create the most hurtful crime possible against Americans, in an attempt by Isis to break our spirit by breaking our hearts.

As someone who teaches in public schools I have noticed that even very young students – who may not really care that much if it was either George Washington or Abraham Lincoln who supposedly chopped down a cherry and then manned up to his father – yes, even these students are very current about the terrorism against schools since the Columbine assault in 1999.

During one of my days at a high school in Riverside County a couple of years ago, there was a real lockdown at a school and a classroom that was practically enclosed in glass, particularly in the classroom that I was managing – a glass door as well as glass walls.

We followed all the instructions of locking the doors and turning the lights out while the lockdown was going on, but all that didn’t make the students feel particularly safe.  All we knew is that we were experiencing a real lockdown, and as always, there was no word about what triggered it.   Large concerns and smaller concerns get the same treatment with all school lockdowns.

The classroom was built among a other classrooms in the same building, with a faculty work room in the center of all the connected rooms.  Some of my students thought we would get into the center faculty room, since there was no use hiding when you are surrounded by glass walls and a glass door, even with all the lights out.  But this idea was vetoed by a senior teacher in the building and I had to endure some students being uneasy about the situation for about an hour.

I have in the course of many afternoons in the faculty lounge asked teachers why simply to ease the anxiety of these students to at least replace the glass doors of this high school with solid doors.  Largely the feedback I received is that it is that the odds are against this high school being assaulted in any case. And so inserting a solid door would probably be a waste of effort and expense, in that viewpoint.  But probably because I am not really a vintage teacher – just a guy from private business who started substituting for real teachers in my retirement – I see that argument as spacious as arguing that inserting a seat belt into a car would be a waste of time and effort because it probably would never really be needed anyway.

But finally, I sat down with another teacher who said that if he were to make a big deal about this vulnerable glass-covered high school at a school board meeting, he would never know if a less desirable assignment given him the next school year was because he brought up a possible expense that made people on the board feel uncomfortable.

And so that may be why we are now seeing the new schools being built around the country with much greater fortification against more volatile human nature and in the tornado states Mother Nature. But we are not seeing the same extra fortification being taken in existing schools.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.