Working closely with Tyco Integrated Security, the administrators at Bennett Day School implemented a comprehensive security solution while maintaining a welcoming environment.
As community hubs, schools act as safe havens for teaching and learning. That means district administrators are continually looking for new ways to prevent crime and violence in and around their schools while also creating a welcoming environment for students, parents, teachers and visitors.
For Bennett Day School, located in downtown Chicago, safety is top priority. Convenient to where many parents work, Bennett Day School also experiences quite a bit of traffic congestion, making it even more important to have a protected environment.
“In a secure environment, learning flourishes,” said Kate Cicchelli, chief academic officer and principal of Bennett Day School. “You want to provide a learning environment that is welcoming, inviting, engaging to families and prospective families and children. Safety needs to enable the educational environment that exists, providing a warm and welcoming place for the discovery process to take place.”
Staying safe is also top of mind for parents who consider the school an extension of their home. “When our parents come to information sessions, the first question – if not the second – is about security and safety,” said Cameron Smith, co-founder and CEO of Bennett Day School. “Since we are in a downtown urban environment, there is heavy foot traffic outside, in addition to cars, buses and trains. It’s busy. They want to know and feel confident and assured that we are looking after what is most precious to them.”
Being a part of the community is important to this institution, too, as it follows a learning approach called Reggio Emilia that centers on the principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration and discovery. The idea reinforces that children are innately curious and capable participants and collaborators in the educational experience and should question, explore and discover. Leveraging its urban location, the school encourages its students and teachers to consider the city itself an active part of its classroom. “Education doesn’t only take place within our four walls,” said Smith.
The administrators at Bennett Day School are even more conscious of safety concerns due to the fact that the school is quickly outgrowing its space. It has four classrooms in its current facility, which is slated to function as the early childhood center when it expands into a new building. The new location is going to serve as its flagship campus – with more than 20 classrooms of children through grade eight. As it builds this new school in multiple phases, administrators need a security plan that grows with them.
“As we build another location, to expand we need to think about how we are designing everything behind the walls,” said Smith. “You can imagine that there’s a lot of careful planning that has to go into maintaining the bones of a historic building and transforming it into a safe and modern school protected with security technology. It’s tremendously helpful to build in the security program to a building when you’re renovating or redeveloping an existing or older property. It’s important to stay ahead in a changing environment.
The school has experienced difficulty finding a security provider that could integrate the breadth of services it needed in the past. But the school’s IT partner introduced Smith to Rachel Sabado, Tyco Integrated Security commercial account executive, who had many suggestions for the growing school.
Sabado shared best practices for schools and childcare facilities with the Bennett Day School team. She was even brought into conversations with the school’s board of directors.
Similar to other schools, Bennett Day School has a variety of safety considerations. Smith and Cicchelli were impressed with the offering from Tyco that addressed the following concerns:
- Having a large number of visitors coming to the school throughout the day
- Accessing the facility for activities on weekends
- Signing students in and out
- Getting students into their respective cars
- Closing down the building at the end of the day
- Having multiple entrances and exits at the new flagship school