By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — The Elk Mound school district has been awarded a school safety grant of $64,133 through the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Elk Mound was one of 52 schools awarded grants July 9. Out of the 52 schools, the largest grant was for $210,800 to the Elmbrook school district, and the smallest grant was for $15,743 to the Christ King School in Wauwatosa.
“We are excited to extend safety above and beyond what we already have in place,” said Eric Wright, Elk Mound 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 to help schools improve their security systems.
In February of this year, a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Florida.
The application was “very detail oriented,” and Elk Mound received assistance from CESA 10 to complete the grant application to meet the short deadline, Wright said.
Two tiers of funding — primary and advanced — were available for the school safety grants.
“Many of the primary items we already had in place. The one we didn’t have was security film on the main entrances of our buildings,” Wright said.
When security film is applied to glass windows, the windows become virtually unbreakable.
Wright said the school district worked with local law enforcement to obtain ideas for improving safety in Elk Mound’s schools.
The school district already has doors that are locked and require being buzzed in at the main entrance during the day.
The school district already has panic buttons, a crisis plan and security cameras, too.
The security film will be used on exterior entrances and on interior windows, Wright said.
The grant also will be used to purchase handheld radios, which will allow school district personnel to communicate in an emergency situation.
“Based on past situations across our nation, the one item that continues to come up is communication during an incident,” Wright said.
The grant will be used to install strobe lights as well in areas with the potential for loud noise, such as the band room and the gymnasium.
“Even as loud as the alarm is, with a high volume of students using their instruments, the alarm may not be heard, or if we have a large crowd in our gym, the alarm may not be heard, so the strobe lights would allow for recognition of an emergency situation,” Wright said.
The grant is expected to cover the cost of all of the new safety items, and the district will not have to provide additional funding, he said.
“Part of this is the past and current emphasis our district places on safety items. Safety items always rise to the top, and we try to address them as soon as possible from a district standpoint,” Wright said.
“Any time we have an opportunity to extend the safety measures for our students and community, it is a priority,” he said.
“Parents expect their children will be safe when they come to school — as they should. Ultimately, if our students do not feel safe it will impact their learning,” Wright said.
“We do multiple trainings each school year with students and staff to hopefully avoid issues. We will continue to address safety issues as they come up, and most importantly, continue to build relationships with our students so that they have an adult to communicate with in a time of need,” he said.
Wright said he hoping at least some of the new safety measures will be installed by the time school starts in September.
Part of the problem is that the school districts receiving grants will all be using the same companies to help upgrade the security in their school buildings.
“We are hopeful (the work can be completed this summer), but as far as security film, with the volume of installations, I am not sure that will occur. Radios and strobe lights, once I receive documentation that officially states we can start purchasing and installing, we will begin,” Wright said.