Is Utah’s Hillcrest High School Window Design a Feature or Bug?

By Daedalus Howell

MIDVALE, Utah — Anyone who has ever muddled with programming will know the turn of phrase “feature or bug?” It’s the industry’s glib way of spinning what might be an interesting deviation in the code. The same applies to interior design when it comes to schools — at least according to a recent newscast on New4Utah regarding a pending $100 million retrofit to Hillcrest High School (HHS) in Midvale, Utah, which is still in the design phase. The question at hand is “Are large windows a design feature or potentially fatal flaw?”

Included in the proposed design is plenty of “daylighting” in the form of large windows, which the area’s Canyon School District has been employing throughout its schools. The premise holds that natural light is not only good for defraying electricity and infrastructure costs but it’s also healthier for students and promotes a positive learning environment. At least one teacher, however, believes the new window design makes students and faculty vulnerable to school shooting incidents, according to the report.

Katie Bullock, a language arts teacher at the high school, candidly told the TV station, that she believes greater visibility of students essentially makes them easier to target and that the design represents “negligence” on the part of the district. Jeff Haney, a Canyons School District spokesperson disagreed with the observation, countering that “These are schools, not prisons.” Though there were discussions of reducing the size of the window to 10 by 6 feet, Bullock pointed out that they will not be made of bullet-proof glass, which moots the point of shrinking the windows in the first place.

HHS principal Gregory Leavitt posted a message on the school’s website following a recent parent and student public forum. “We had over 250 students share their thoughts and opinions about HHS. Our parent meeting had 25 participants, and we are hoping for more next time. We have published a summary of our student and patron comments and the HHS response for your review on our web page. We hope you take the time to look them over and join us in our next public forum,” wrote Leavitt.

To that end, the district and FFKR Architects, a Salt Lake City-based firm that designed the proposed upgrades, will share renderings of the new HHS on April 18. The public is invited to come look over the architectural drawings and speak with school officials and architects. Construction of the new school is slated to begin this Spring and could take up to three years to complete.

HHS has a total enrollment of about 2,250 students and is ranked No. 7 in the state of Utah. Students from HHS participated in a walkout one week after 17 people were killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Parkland, Fla., in February. In February of the previous year, the school went on lockdown when an anonymous caller phoned the police to say that a gunman was barricaded inside the school and firing shots. The incident turned out to be a hoax.