PW-S District nets $124,900 to improve school security

Grant money will pay for shatter-resistant window treatments, new high-tech camera systems
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington-Saukville School District will receive $124,906 from the Wisconsin Department of Justice to beef up school security.

The district will use the money — part of a $100 million Wisconsin school safety grant program launched in April — to apply shatter-resistant film to windows around school entrances to prevent intruders from smashing their way into buildings.

It also plans to 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 will be 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,” Supt. Michael Weber told the School Board last month. 

The new system would monitor the exterior of the building like the systems at the elementary schools as well as hallways and interior areas near doors. The camera system will be accessible to law enforcement agencies in emergencies.

Many of the security needs at Port Washington High School are being addressed as part of the ongoing $45.6 million construction and renovation project.

Jim Froemming, director of business services, said shatter-resistant film will be applied to windows beginning later this week. The district’s goal is to have the rest of the security improvements in place by the time classes begin in September.

Although the grant will fund significant improvements at the middle school, security still remains a concern because of its main entrance design. 

Other schools in the district have vestibule entrances adjacent to the main offices where visitors must be buzzed in through two sets of locked doors monitored by cameras and secretaries before gaining access to the building.

At the middle school, however, the main entrance on the north side of the building off West Norport Drive is not adjacent to the office. After visitors are buzzed through a door monitored by a camera, they must walk down a hallway past guidance department offices before reaching the main office.

One option being considered by school officials is moving the main entrance to the east side of the building off Holden Street, where it would be next to the school office and a vestibule system could be installed. Bicycle racks currently in that area would be moved to make way for a short-term, visitor parking lot.

That work, as well as other school improvements, would be paid for with money the district has saved in its fund balance account.

As the district makes physical security improvements to its buildings, it is also putting an emphasis on training, both to head off incidents by focusing on mental health and to teach staff members and students how to respond to armed intruders.

The district is having its administrators and other staff members trained through the ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) Active Shooter program, which teaches a response that is significantly different than the hide-in-place technique formerly taught.

“We realized that there’s a big difference between what they are telling us now and what the old procedures told us,” Port High Assistant Principal Thad Gabrielse, one of the administrators who recently underwent ALICE training, told the School Board recently.

The ALICE program teaches school staff members and students to be proactive rather than hide under desks when confronted by armed intruders by taking actions that could range from barricading doors to escaping through them to confronting the intruder.

“It goes back to Columbine,” Gabrielse said, referring to the April 20, 1999, shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado where 12 students and one teacher were shot and killed by two students. “All they had to do was exit through the rear of the library, but their training was to lock down and hide under tables.

“If you just sit there, you’re a dead duck. You have to think of your options, like what in this classroom could be used to throw at an intruder. Maybe the teacher has a pet rock on her desk.

“When it takes place, it (the response to an intruder) looks chaotic. There’s no plan, and that’s the key thing.”

The same type of lessons apply to elementary schools where frank conversations about the sad reality of school shootings in this country are being had with the district’s youngest students and their parents, Saukville Elementary School Principal Chad Brakke said.

“You’re not going to confront anyone with kindergartners, but you can talk about things like how you could barricade a door,” he said.


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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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