District to receive second school security grant

New secure entrance, office renovation at middle school among the projects likely to benefit from state funding
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington-Saukville School District has been informed that it will receive a second Wisconsin Department of Justice school security grant, this one for at least $145,000, school officials said last week.

Earlier this summer, the district qualified for a $124,906 grant that was used to make a number of security improvements in schools. With the addition of the second grant, part of which may be used to help pay for a new secure entrance at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, the district will have received a total of $270,000 from the Wisconsin school safety grant program.

The state launched the program in April after the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and earmarked $100 million for schools in the state.

But only about half the money was awarded, in part because a number of schools did not apply for the grants, so a second round of grants is being distributed.

“A large majority of the schools that did not apply were parochial and private schools,” Supt. Michael Weber said.

The district’s initial grant was used to apply shatter-resistant film to windows around school entrances to prevent intruders from smashing into buildings.

It was also used to buy and install sophisticated camera systems to monitor the main entrances and other areas of schools. Instead of being linked to a single screen monitored by a secretary, images from the cameras will be displayed with a projection system so multiple people in school offices can see them.

In addition, panic buttons have been installed under the desks of two secretaries at schools that will allow them to override their buildings’ electronic lock systems and notify authorities that they are locked down. Dunwiddie Elementary School, where a $3.8 million addition was recently completed and other improvements were made, already has such a system, administrators said.

Just less than half the grant money — $58,500 — has been earmarked for Thomas Jefferson Middle School, where the camera system has been described as archaic at best.

“The system at the middle school was not working well when I came here in 2000,” Weber said. 

The district plans to use the second grant to install more shatter-resistant film on school windows, as well as purchase additional locks for buildings and two-way radios.

Administrators also hope to use the grant money to offset the cost of a Thomas Jefferson Middle School renovation that could cost more than $400,000.

The middle school, which was not included in the building improvement initiative financed by the $49.4 million referendum approved in 2015, is the only school in the district that does not have a secure vestibule entrance. 

Currently, visitors are buzzed into the building through a camera-monitored entrance on the north side of the school. From there, they must walk down a hall past the guidance department to the office.

According to plans discussed by School Board members last week, the doors on the east side of the school would become the main entrance and the office would be renovated to create a secure vestibule adjacent to the office. Visitors buzzed in through the outside doors would have access to a secretary via a window and would need to be buzzed through a second set of locked doors before gaining access to classrooms.

The project is estimated to cost $240,000, Jim Froemming, the district’s director of business services, said.

While the district plans to proceed with that part of the project, officials are still considering a plan to create a short-term, visitor parking lot off Holden Street on the east side of the school outside the new entrance. The large parking area on the north side of the school would be retained as the main lot.

The new parking lot is estimated to cost just less than $200,000, Froemming said.

The district also plans to replace the accordion divider that used to separate the middle school cafeteria from the main hallway with a different type of divider.

In addition to using a portion of the school security grant to pay for the office project,  the district plans to tap its fund balance savings to finance the improvements. 

Although the work would not be done until June at the earliest, school officials hope to request bids for the project in November at the latest to make sure the projects are completed before the start of the 2019-20 school year.

“The trades are tough right now,” Froemming said. “The cost of lumber is up 40% this year. And suppliers don’t have the trucks and trains or the people to operate them to ship materials.”    

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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