The Madison School District will be getting nearly $1 million to improve security in the district’s 48 buildings, the state attorney general said Wednesday.
State Attorney General Brad Schimel announced the latest series of school safety improvement grants at Waubesa Intermediate School in McFarland, with 19 school districts and schools getting more than $1.9 million.
Other school districts in the Madison area getting grants include $145,038 for the Baraboo district; $81,704 for the Cambridge district; $79,925 for the McFarland district; and $79,474 for the Portage district. St. Dennis School in Madison will get $21,423.
The Madison grant of $993,033 is the largest awarded so far by the state Department of Justice, after $100 million was put into the state budget in April to enhance school security in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida. The measure requires schools to create a safety plan with local police to be eligible to receive the money.
“School officials and law enforcement share the responsibility in keeping our kids safe when they leave their homes every day,” Schimel said. “These grant funds will establish a meaningful way to improve school safety through physical improvements to school buildings, and a focus on mental health training for school faculty.”
During a news conference Wednesday, Schimel said he isn’t ruling out using school safety grants to cover firearm training for teachers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The legislation doesn’t require arming teachers, although Schimel has said he would be open to that.
Joe Balles, coordinator of safety and security for the Madison School District, said the bulk of the grant will go to door security, both for classrooms and exterior doors.
“We are looking at using staff identification cards as keys to get into classrooms, similar to the systems used for hotel rooms,” Balles said.
Grant money would also be used to add window-hardening film to front entries of schools and to buy 400 video surveillance cameras to add to the existing 900 cameras monitoring the district’s buildings, he said.
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The $1 million grant would be “just a start” for a proposed safety and security plan introduced June 11 by school officials, Balles said.
The recommendations could total up to nearly $7 million if fully implemented.
“It could be the largest one-time security expenditure for all of the schools,” Balles said.
The work starting this year won’t be finished by the start of the school year, but one goal is to have classroom doors getting the new electronic locks by the end of the school year in 2019.
Andrew Briddell, school superintendent in the McFarland district, said the grant does more than enhance school security.
“This grant award is also about strengthening the partnership between schools and local law enforcement,” Briddell said. “In doing so, it strengthens the team that keeps our schools — our kids and teachers — safe.”
In developing the new state Office of School Safety, more than two dozen school-related and law enforcement groups met with Department of Justice staff, ranging from the FBI to the WIAA.
A total of 735 school districts and private schools have requested grant funds to improve school safety.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.