Posted by Steve Lettau on Jun 01, 2022

School safety measures here have increased significantly in recent years

By Lisa Curtis - Conley Publishing Group

OZAUKEE COUNTY — Yet another town, this time Uvalde, Texas, is saying they didn’t think it could happen to them. Didn’t think the unimaginable – that an armed person could walk into a school and shoot students — could happen in their hometown.

Whether those who live in Ozaukee County feel that sense of immunity or not, based on the security measures in place at area schools, it would be very difficult for it to happen here.

Every public and most private schools in Cedarburg, Grafton, Mequon and Thiensville have have multiple systems in place to prevent anyone from wandering into the building. Doors must be unlocked by someone from the inside to allow entry into the school. Cameras are everywhere, some even linked directly to local police departments. Bulletproof windows and doors would make it hard to breach a school with weapons.

“I want to reassure you that we take school safety and security very seriously at the Cedarburg School District,” Cedarburg School Superintendent Todd Bugnacki said in a message to parents. “We are vigilant and proactive when it comes to our children’s safety and have clear plans and procedures to deal with emergency situations.”

Referendums approved by the three area public school districts within the past five years all included added security measures, especially in light of other past school shootings, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018.

Almost immediately following the Sandy Hook shooting, former Mequon-Thiensville School District Superintendent Demond Means ordered an immediate review of the security measures in place and took steps to better secure buildings.

Current Superintendent Matthew Joynt delivered a message to families last Wednesday, one day after the Uvalde shooting, offering all of the resources the district had available.

“As we begin to navigate another school day, thoughts of yesterday’s horrific shooting in Texas are weighing heavily on many of our minds,” Joynt wrote. “We understand that many students, families, and staff members may still be processing the tragedy, and we want to take this opportunity to offer some resources to help support those difficult conversations.”

The 2020 MTSD referendum for $55.7 million added on to the security improvements of 2012. That included the construction of a more identifiable main entrance at Homestead High School and districtwide improvements to control visitor access.

Improvements at all schools included an adjustment in traffic flow and the installation of electronic safety gates and bollards to control vehicle access to certain parts of each campus, according to MTSD Director of Communications and Engagement Molly Loucks.

The front entrance at each school is locked and fortified, and all visitors must be buzzed in and routed through the main office. MTSD uses the Raptor visitor management system Other safety measures include:

  • Video surveillance on all campuses.
  • Easy locking classroom doors.
  • Emergency evacuation signage within buildings to identify exits.
  • Upgraded fire alarm system.
  • Districtwide lockdown activation system.

Through a combination of the 2017 referendum for $39.9 million, grants and budget expenditures, the Grafton School District has taken a number of steps through the district to improve security for students and staff. Among the safety components that Grafton Superintendent Jeff Nelson said are in place are:

  • Raptor visitor system to monitor prospective guests and volunteers.
  • Reinforced safety glass at entrance points to reduce likelihood of a forced entry.
  • Window treatments and blinds to limit visibility into the building.
  • Enhanced cameras outdoors and indoors to monitor, track and record individuals across campus.
  • Panic buttons installed in each school with auto alerts programmed for first responders.
  • District communication system that works outside of cellular service to provide notifications.
  • A school resource officer, with a second to be added for the 2022-23 school year.

At the Cedarburg School District, a police officer has been positioned at every school at pickup and dropoff since last Wednesday. Police Chief Mike McNerney said that will stay that way until the end of the year.

A longtime member of the county SWAT team, McNerney said one of the things he is most passionate about is training in the event of an active shooter. They do regular training with teachers and other school staff, including how to medically treat the wounded. Cedarburg officers also trained with students last year, he said.

The Cedarburg School District hired a consultant specializing in school safety several years ago. And based on that, used part of its approved $59.8 million referendum in 2018 to implement the consultant’s recommendations, though district officials declined to discuss them so as not to compromise those measures.

McNerney said though that police officers have access to the cameras at all of the schools.

The Cedarburg School District also employs the ALICE system, which stands for alert, lockdown and barricade, inform, counter and swarm and evacuate.

“Under ALICE training, staff and students are oriented to different options to respond to a school intruder who is intent on doing harm,” according to information on the district’s website. “In certain circumstances, the ‘lock the door and hide’ strategy might be appropriate. In some cases, the teacher and students might take precautions to barricade the entrance(s) of the classroom. Under certain conditions, it might be the best decision for the teacher and students to flee the building.”

McNerney said it is precautions like ALICE that help that district and its stakeholders be prepared.

“Our schoolchildren are our top priority and we do everything we can to prepare for something like this,” he said.