PARDEEVILLE — Hold onto your hard hats.
Yet more construction will occur in the Pardeeville Area School District after it received $24,370 for school safety from the state Department of Justice. The state is issuing $100 million in safety grants to schools across Wisconsin, which later this year will allow Pardeeville to renovate its front entrance at the middle school.
The new construction occurs as the district progresses in its $11.9 million construction referendum that got started in April. That project — which includes a 500-seat performing arts center and several office and classroom renovations for the middle/high school building — remains on track for completion in the spring of 2019.
“Our worst-case-scenario for the new entrance at the middle school is $60,000,” said Superintendent Gus Knitt. “But we expect to be well under that because we have all of the construction workers we need right here, working on the additions.”
About $20,000 of the safety grant will be used for the new middle school entrance and however much it costs on top of that will be covered by the district, Knitt said.
Miron Construction, manager for the referendum work, also will oversee this renovation. The rest of the safety grant money will be used for supplies and guest speakers for in-service mental health training to be held later this month for all district staff.
The safety grant is “tremendous” for Pardeeville, Knitt said, considering the district already planned to do the training with or without the grant money.
Security planned for the middle school entrance primarily involves construction that redirects incoming traffic through the middle school office, Knitt said. This will be done so that entrants must sign in once they enter the school’s electronically locked doors.
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“Our office staff will always know who’s in there, just like our other offices,” Knitt said of the new system, which already is in place for the high school and elementary school entrances.
The state mandates the district to spend the grant money before Dec. 31.
“This really gets us up to speed,” Knitt said of the mental health training for staff. “A huge part of safety is trying to identify potential (incidents). In every school shooting, there are always indications that something might happen.”
Pardeeville administrators expect to apply for more safety grants from the DOJ in the near future — grants that would be used to further address mental health. To qualify for upcoming grants, Knitt said, Pardeeville needs to institute a safety team, which it will do.
“For a long time we’ve been trying to stay ahead of the curve with the whole issue of student safety,” Knitt said, noting that many of the Wisconsin schools receiving safety grants are spending the money on security cameras and intercoms, which Pardeeville installed when it passed a $1 million referendum in 2012.
Middle School Principal David Bell said national tragedies have highlighted the importance of school safety.
“Having our doors better secured, having people checking in before entering our building means that all three of our schools will have the same setup,” he said.
He added that knowing who is in the buildings greatly improves security.
“We want our students to feel safe and secure as they come into our buildings, to know that we are watching what’s going on inside and outside the building and that we’re making sure everybody’s safe,” Bell said. “They know it’s important to everybody here.”
Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.