A handful of school districts in the Chippewa Valley were included in the state Department of Justice’s awarding of school safety grants on Monday, paving the way for security upgrades and emergency training at those schools.
The grants are part of the department’s $100 million School Safety Initiative, set up in the spring after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla. The state DOJ awarded more than $3.5 million to 52 schools and school districts, according to a release from the state DOJ. More grant recipient announcements will be on their way as the department processes applications.
Monday’s reveal included area school districts Augusta, Cumberland, Elk Mound, Independence, Glenwood City, Ladysmith, McDonell Area Catholic Schools, Mondovi and Whitehall. Each district received varying amounts depending on its needs.
“In today’s society, safety is on everyone’s mind,” said Eric Wright, Elk Mound’s schools superintendent. “Everything starts with safety. If our students don’t feel safe, they’re not going to learn. Parents expect safety, and they should.”
With the funding, Wright said the Elk Mound school district plans to install security film on building windows in case of a shooting, as well as additional radios and strobe lights for the gymnasium for emergency notification when it’s too loud to hear sirens.
In Whitehall, Superintendent Mike Beighley said the grant money will be used for panic buttons, safety film, staff training and fencing around school campuses.
Independence schools will use the money to improve sightlines from the front office to the entryway, install more cameras on entries and exits and alert systems that will go off if an unauthorized door is opened, District Administrator Barry Schmitt said.
According to the state’s DOJ website, the Eau Claire school district has also requested money through the grant program to the tune of $390,319.41. District business manager Abby Johnson said the funds would be used to upgrade security cameras, purchase video storage systems, pay consultants to help with safety training and enhancing the buzzer system that allows visitors into buildings.
All three school district officials said their district already has safety items in place, but grant money will help add to them.
“You’re always evaluating your security system and looking at things you can do to improve,” Johnson said. “There’s that cost part of it that makes it a struggle, because you always want to do more than you can afford to do.”
Grant amounts for the districts in the Leader-Telegram’s 12-county coverage area include:
• Augusta, $81,717.
• Cumberland, $78,920.
• Elk Mound, $64,133.
• Independence, $50,266.
• Glenwood City, $78,820.
• Ladysmith, $61,080.
• McDonell Area Catholic Schools, $82,100.
• Mondovi, $64,843.
• Whitehall, $40,000.
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