The Department of Justice announced this week that around $45 million in school safety funds will be awarded to Wisconsin schools.
In March, the state Legislature passed a bill establishing an Office of School Safety and $100 million for school safety measures, as a response to the deadly Parkland, Florida shooting that month. More than 700 Wisconsin schools and districts in the state applied for the first round of funds and all are expected to receive funding, which will leave an estimated $45 million remaining.
Several private and public schools in Dane County, including the Madison Metropolitan School District and Sun Prairie School District, have already been approved to receive some of that money. MMSD was awarded a nearly $1 million grant in June.
According to the DOJ, money from the first round is expected to be used for a variety of safety improvements such as staff training, more secure entry areas and security cameras.
James Howard, the MMSD Board vice president, says specific plans are in place to make use of the grant. He says the ultimate goal for MMSD is to make schools in the district safer.
“The plans are that we’re going to make safety improvements throughout the school, things like better lighting and cameras,” Howard says. “I think there will be improvements to our welcoming centers and training for staff. There will be a special film that goes on doors and shatterproof glasses on the doors. There’s also interior door locks that we’ll be adding, so there’s a number of different things we’ll be doing to add safety throughout the district.”
Tom Weber, the vice president of the Sun Prairie Board, mentioned that similar plans have been made for schools in the Sun Prairie Area. He said, however, that the grant also encompasses a wide variety of student safety that is not only active shooter-related.
Though Weber says he is thankful to the state for allocating money towards the issue, he says there is much more to be done in keeping students safe in schools. In fact, Weber criticized the first round of the grant, saying it did not address mental health issues.
“While the grant didn’t address all the things that impact safety and security, I am proud of the fact that in Wisconsin, our politicians did at least move the needle forward in doing something,” Weber says.
He referenced recent mass shootings in schools in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas as examples for the need for increased safety needs in schools.
“The grant didn’t cover everything but I think that’s important, it at least covered some of the things that schools needed and allowed schools to have access to that money outside of their regular operating budget to address important aspects of security and safety,” Howard says.
In a news release, the DOJ said the second round of funding will focus on advanced training for teachers on mental health. The release also said physical security upgrades will be included, as well as the creation of School Safety Intervention teams consisting of educators, counselors and law enforcement.
Schools and school districts that applied for the first round of grants will still be eligible for
the second round of grants.
According to Weber, Sun Prairie will submit another grant application and feels encouraged that the second round focuses more on mental health initiatives. Howard, on the other hand, said there are no current plans for MMSD to apply for more grant money.
The second round of grants will be awarded this October.
WORT’s Kayla Huynh reported this story.