Security grants come with a visit from Schimel

Attorney general says PW-S School District’s plan to invest money in new TJMS entrance epitomizes intent of program

STANDING OUTSIDE Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Port Washington Tuesday, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel (right) spoke with Port Washington-Saukville School Supt. Michael Weber (left) and Director of Business Services Jim Froemming about plans to create a new, secure entrance on the east side of the school paid for in part by a Department of Justice grant. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington-Saukville School District became a poster child for school security Tuesday when Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel toured Thomas Jefferson Middle School to tout his department’s safety grant program that will help finance a new secure entrance at the Port school.

“The plan for Thomas Jefferson Middle School is one of the very things we hoped would happen with these grants, that schools will take the critical step of creating secure entrances,” Schimel, who is running for re-election, said. “It’s exactly what we want to see happen, not so students and staff feel like they’re inside a prison but so they feel they are in a safe place where teachers can concentrate on teaching and students can concentrate on learning.”

Under Schimel, the Department of Justice launched a school safety program after the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and earmarked $100 million in grants for Wisconsin schools.

The Port Washington-Saukville School District has received two grants from the program totalling $280,000 and plans to invest $75,000 of that in the new middle school entrance and related office renovations.

Schimel’s visit came a day after the School Board’s Building and Grounds Committee endorsed that project as well as other improvements at the 50-year-old school estimated to cost more than $700,000.

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. 

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 endorsed by school officials Monday, 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 it. 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 the school.

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

Related to the entrance are plans 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 $160,000, Froemming said.

But it remains to be seen if City of Port Washington officials will sign off on plans for a parking lot off what can be a busy Holden Street.

“It’s a crazy street to drive down sometimes,” School Board President Brenda Fritsch said.

But school officials said the lot is intended to be a convenient parking place for visitors during the school day when Holden Street traffic is not a problem, not a pickup and dropoff site at the beginning and end of the school day when traffic is heavy.

School officials will present plans for the parking lot to the city next month and said they will proceed with the new secure entrance and office renovation even if the parking lot proposal is rejected by the city.

Other middle school improvements endorsed by the committee include a $230,000 air conditioner chiller, a $60,000 generator, a wall to replace accordian doors dividing the cafeteria from the main hallway estimated to cost $6,000, blinds for the cafeteria windows estimated to cost $2,000 and new doors to the aquatic center on the west side of the building for $11,000.

  In addition to $75,000 in school security grant money, the projects would be paid for with $185,000 from the district maintenance fund. Fund balance would cover the rest of the cost.

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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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