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DIGGING DEEPER: School safety grants used to beef up security

MADISON (WKOW) — As your kids head back to school they might notice some new safety upgrades. Hundreds of school districts received school safety grants from Wisconsin’s Department of Justice over the last two years.

This year, some buildings are equipped with new technology such as security cameras, key card scanners, and door locking systems. For Sun Prairie Area School District, they received $763,308 for two rounds of grants.

Nick Reichhoff who oversees safety protocols for the districts said the biggest upgrade was installing a new intercom system with a camera at all main entrances and requiring guests to provide identification when checking in. A new software system conducts background checks on all guests who enter a school building. 

“I think the key is to be proactive in addresses those concerns and making sure people feel safe,” said Reichhoff.

Besides new security equipment, teachers and staff were trained this summer on what to do in an active shooter situation.

The Sun Prairie Area School District was also approved for a second round of grants which will focus on mental health training on how to detect potential threats and how to respond.

“Looking at mental health and making sure we are being preventative so students can get the services that they need before anything bad happens,” said Reichhoff.

Sun Prairie wasn’t the only district to install new safety measures, hundreds of school in Wisconsin got a piece of about $100 million in grants from DOJ. 

Madison Metropolitan School District received one of the largest amounts of $2.5 million. Some of the biggest changes the district made so far was installing hundreds of security cameras on exterior doors and using key cards to gain access into a locked classroom.

MMSD building services coordinator Chad Wiese said by next week schools will have also upgraded their phone systems to alert parents during an emergency situation. The grant money will also be used to add shatterproof window film to front entrances.

These grants weren’t limited to large school districts, Barneveld recently upgraded their security before the school year starts. Barneveld schools received $63,778 to buy intercom systems, security cameras, shatterproof glass and soon will equip every classroom with a “Stop the Bleed” kits.

Beaver Dam Unified School District added signal boosters to help cell phone signals to the high school to improve communication for emergency personnel and staff. Like most schools, they also added interior and exterior cameras to buildings along with installing new PA systems, according to Nicole White, communications officer. Between both rounds of grants, the district received $381,485.

To receive the first round of grants schools are required to improve their security measures and implement lockdown drills by August 2020.  Grants awarded in round two, which are focused on mental health improvements must be implemented by next school year.

According to the DOJ only about 100 schools have completed all their projects. Each district has different timelines on when projects will be complete as DOJ officials say most are booking the same contractor to complete projects.

School Safety Grants:

Beaver Dam → $381,485

DeForest → $309,708

Edgewood → $29,230

Madison MMSD → $2,551,936

Platteville → $177,402

Portage $213,082

Sauk Prairie  $282,126

Sun Prairie → $763,308

*For a full list, all schools districts who were approved for grants can be found here.


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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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