Community Education

Discovery Elementary to get classroom doors

Posted on December 14th, 2022 By:

Last spring, parents and staff at Discovery Elementary School sounded off on a long-standing safety issue at the school, which lacks interior classroom doors in its main wing.

The school, built in 1981, employs an “open concept” design that was popular before school shootings became an all-too-common occurrence.

The Peninsula School District’s capital projects team is moving forward to install interior doors that meet modern school safety standards and is seeking permits for the project, the district announced Wednesday.

Curtains on some classrooms openings at Discovery Elementary School reduce noise and outside light during class time. Courtesy Peninsula School District

Lack of doors and safety

Community members expressed concern about the lack of doors at a school forum in June. The  forum occurred not long after the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting in May.

“Recent tragic events in our country have understandably raised awareness and fears in our community, and Discovery is the only school in the district without doors,” Assistant Superintendent John Hellwich said. “We felt it was necessary to prioritize this project.”

Once the district obtains permits, it will solicit bids from contractors early in 2023. Director of Facilities Patrick Gillespie expects the work to begin after the last day of the 2022-2023 school year. He expects the installation will be complete before the 2023-2024 school year.

“The design concept for the doors is in line with the doors installed at the new elementary schools built with 2019 bond dollars,” Gillespie said.

The front doors at Discovery Elementary remain locked during the school day, except during student drop-off and pick-up. Visitors ring a doorbell to request admission by the front office during school hours. Courtesy Peninsula School District

Improved learning environment

Beyond security measures, interior doors on classrooms will help create better learning environments for students, the district said. Staff and parents noted excessive noise from other classrooms and hallways as a problem for students.

The design will still allow for some of the flexibility that was the goal of the open concept model.

“There are times when doors can be open for some flexible learning and a community feel, but there are times when being able to close doors is the best way to create a good classroom learning environment,” Hellwich said

The district does not yet have a cost estimate for the project. Chief Financial Officer Ashley Murphy said the cost will become clear after the permitting process is complete.

The district plans to pay for the work using Capital Projects Fund money that was generated by a past land sale. The work won’t affect the general fund nor day-to-day operations funding, Murphy said.

Classrooms at Discovery Elementary do not have interior doors. The school, built in 1981, uses an “open concept” design, popular in that era. Courtesy Peninsula School District