By LeAnn R. Ralph
BOYCEVILLE — The Boyceville Community School District has been awarded a $60,000 school safety grant through the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
“It’s a nice amount of money, and it will be well used,” said Kevin Sipple, school district administrator.
The state Legislature set aside $100 million of general purpose revenue in March to be administered as grants available through the new Office of School Safety in the Department of Justice.
Sipple was invited to meet with state Attorney General Brad Schimel on Wednesday, June 20, to receive the award along with Boyceville Police Chief Greg Lamkin and Dunn County Sheriff’s Department Captain Kevin Bygd.
“This grant will improve the security by almost doubling the number of surveillance cameras around the campuses,” noted Boyceville Police Chief Greg Lamkin. “The added cameras and other technology involved will aid our responses to any incidents at the schools.
“We have a great working relationship with the Boyceville schools and are actively working together to find additional means to continue to adapt to changes to keep the students and faculty safe,” added Lamkin, who along with Kevin Bygd, are members of the Safe Schools Committee.
The Boyceville school district installed security camera systems, door access systems and key fobs in 2009 as part of a school district referendum, Sipple said.
The systems are aging now, and the technology has advanced since then, he said.
There are also certain spaces and places in the school buildings that need more coverage from the security cameras, Sipple said.
The grant money will be used to completely upgrade the systems with better technology and to cover those areas previously not covered very well, he said.
Accepting the grant also means committing to taking part in training for trauma sensitive schools, Sipple said.
“Trauma sensitive” refers to adverse events that impact children. Many children have seen things happen in their families or in the environment around them, which can have a profound effect on their mental health and their coping mechanisms, Sipple said.
Even divorce can have a traumatic effect on a child, he said, adding “what was the divorce rate 20 years ago?”
All schools receiving the school safety grant are required to take part in the training in 2018-2019, Sipple noted.
The training will be offered in three or four venues as well as through a DOJ webinar. CESA 11 also will be providing the training, and Boyceville staff will do “train the trainer” training at CESA 11 and then come back and train other district staff, he said.
Mental health issues among school children are a huge concern in all school districts, Sipple noted.
The information about the training was sent to all 39 school districts in CESA 11, so the training also is available to school districts that did not receive school safety grants, he said.
The safety equipment and the training will be a wonderful benefit for both students and staff at Boyceville, Sipple said.
“We are excited,” he said.
The window of opportunity to apply for the school safety grants was very narrow, Sipple said.
The availability of the grants was announced in March, and school districts were asked immediately after the announcement to send letters of intent to the Department of Justice.
After the letters of intent, school districts then had to fill out an application for the DOJ grants.
This particular grant was different because while most school grants are available through the Department of Public Instruction, this grant was available through the Department of Justice, Sipple said.
A detailed application was developed by a third party vendor, and the application required quite a lot of detailed information, he noted.
In the end, “it was do-able,” Sipple said.
During the grant application process, the Department of Justice indicated if school districts were struggling to obtain bids and quotes and other information about equipment, the school districts should still go ahead and submit the application, and the DOJ would be accommodating and try to assist, Sipple said.
The DOJ gave a tremendous amount of support during the application process, he said.
Sipple said the application for the school safety grant was the most complicated grant application due in the shortest amount of time he had ever worked on.
Boyceville already has a vendor lined up to install the equipment, and the equipment has been ordered. School officials are hoping to have the equipment installed before school starts on September 1.
The only problem is, most of the school districts that received grants will be using the same security companies, Sipple said.
Still, Boyceville is hoping to have the security equipment installed this summer, he said.
The grant does not cover the entire cost of the safety equipment, and some local funds also will have to be used to pay for the upgrades.
At the June 18 Board of Education meeting, Sipple reported the school district had applied for $87,900 in school safety grant money but the maximum amount the district would receive would be $60,000, and the remaining $27,900 would have to be covered by the school district budget.