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Dane County schools spend $3M on security upgrades

  • Associated Press
  • September 1, 2013 - 7:15 PM

MADISON, Wis. — Public schools in Dane County have spent nearly $3 million on security upgrades over the summer, including reconfigured entrances and doors outfitted with cameras and buzzers.

The upgrades continue a trend that started almost 15 years ago following the school shooting in Columbine, Colo., the Wisconsin State Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1e5bIQO ). Many of the local upgrades have been in the works for more than a year, but school officials say every time there's a school tragedy anywhere in the U.S., it increases the sense of urgency in Wisconsin.

Districts in Sun Prairie spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to reconfigure entrances so visitors now have to walk into an office or locked vestibule before they can get into the main building. In Waunakee, schools got a $40,000 upgrade to install intercoms and cameras at main entrances.

Most districts said they paid for the upgrades from their maintenance and capital budgets, even if they had to delay other projects such as roof replacements.

Many school officials said they were influenced by shootings at Columbine and elsewhere. The mass killing last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was especially shilling.

"Every time a tragic incident occurs, we learn something, and we re-evaluate," said Tom Wohlleber, an assistant superintendent in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District.

Officials at Verona High School spent $64,000 to replace outdate cameras with 46 new ones with greater clarity and better search functions. Three Verona schools were also outfitted with card keys, which are programmable and hence easier to monitor, said Ken Kietzke, Verona's building and grounds director.

For example, a community group that rents a school gym for two hours every Saturday would be issued cards that only work during those hours, he said.

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