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August 2014

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Newtown tragedy spurs added security at Mukwonago schools

Buzzer entrance systems in line for several buildings

The Mukwonago Area School Board has already begun work on improving security in district buildings. Hiring personnel to monitor entrances at Section and Prairie View elementary schools this week is the first step in improved security at the buildings, while Eagleville Charter School locks its doors once the school day starts.

In the shadow of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, the extra precautions provide additional security to three buildings in the district where office staff do not have a direct line of sight to the main entrance of the school.

School security is a balance between being open to the public and being very secure, Superintendent Paul Strobel told School Board members Monday night.

"It may be time to move down the continuum of being more secure," Strobel said.

All other elementary buildings in MASD funnel visitors through the office before entering the school, but some parents who contacted Strobel said even that isn't enough, since staff wouldn't know someone intent on causing harm is in the building until they are standing in the office.

School Board member Art Schneider pushed to have the doors locked at Section and Prairie View, and visitors during the day would have to be let in by the person monitoring the entrance.

"It's going to at least slow down what happened at that elementary school," Schneider said. "We all lock our doors. Why not lock the doors?"

A new security measure at Mukwonago High School this year has the visitor entrance monitored continuously during the day by school staff, but elementary schools don't have as large of a staff to cover those hours, Strobel explained.

"I am very concerned at those schools," said Strobel.

Curt Wiebelhaus, district supervisor of buildings and grounds, estimated a buzzer system with a camera at the entrance would cost about $5,000 to $6,000 per school for the video camera and about $1,000 or more for the buzzer to better secure Section, Prairie View and Eagleville. The cost which would come out of funds for building maintenance.

Wiebelhaus is prioritizing the three schools to begin installing buzzer systems over Christmas break to better secure the buildings in the long term, while the district's building and grounds committee continues to look at ways to improve school security districtwide at its next meeting in January.

District Business Services Manager Darren Clark noted that all buildings in the district have been mapped out with numbered exits for emergency situations, which have been provided to municipal authorities, along with keys for all district buildings. Additionally, the district's insurance company provides security consultation at no cost to the district, a service that was used when upgrading security at MHS.

"If someone wants to do harm, they will," said School Board President Loren Tieman, but she added, "This is a step in the right direction. This is a school, and people need to come and go."

School Board member Kurt Kaesermann said the district needs to be diligent on a long-term basis.

"Safety is our first issue, and it has to be our first issue all of the time," Kaesermann said.

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