STILLWATER, Minn. - Stillwater Area School District voters will be asked for more money this November to fund protection projects for their children.
The Twin Cities metro area district is one of several expected to go to a fall referendum for school security money.
"Part of Sandy Hook (the slaughter of children in December at a Connecticut school) was a big push," said Dennis Bloom, Stillwater Area Schools Director of Operations, "but we had been working on this for two years before this."
Stillwater had obtained a $386,000 Readiness Emergency Management grant. They used the money to ramp up training for staff and administration at all of their schools. The district now has protocols in place so all teachers and administrators know what to do in the event of an emergency, including an unwanted intruder in their building.
However, Bloom said the buildings need to be modified for greater security. The district will ask taxpayers to approve an additional $450,000 per year for 8 years to make physical changes to the campuses.
The Inver Grove Heights School District also plans to ask for more financial support from taxpayers to improve security, but as of this story's deadline, the details of that request were not available.
The Bloomington School District has been planning to go to voters for permission to spend more on school security changes, but promises no tax hike. Instead, the district needs the OK to borrow the money through bonding, according to a district spokesman.
Bloom showed KARE 11 how changes would work at Oak-Land Junior High School should the referendum pass.
"Eventually, this money will pay for all our schools to have vestibules or entrances where visitors will have to pass through the main office," said Bloom. "All the schools will have the doors that we are putting in. The offices will have automatic locks on them, so they can push a button and lock all doors down."
Bloom stood in the middle of the school's wide entrance-way.
"We will have a third set of doors that will go across right here, that will be locked during the day, so that visitors come in, they will have to walk this way to be able to get into the office and then be let in from the office, sign in at the office, and come back (to classrooms, etc.)."
The district also intends to equip each school with "A" phones, basically intercoms at the entrances to screen anyone attempting to enter.
Charlene Briner, Chief of Staff to the Minnesota Commissioner of Education, said the state's districts have more financial empowerment this year because of action by the State Legislature. The allowed-levy for districts to bill taxpayers was increased by $6 per pupil in the last legislative session.
"So, the additional $6 can be used for retrofitting entrances, security glass, things like that," said Briner. "There's some new money there."
Briner said the changes are necessary.
"There are a lot of buildings that are aging, that have been around for a long time and in light of the things that we have seen in recent years, we are always evaluating how to make them safer."
Bloom agreed that districts are anxious to do what they can to improve safety.
"It is a county-wide thing. It is a state-wide thing. It is a nation-wide thing that everybody is working on that security issue. A lot of them are doing the access control because that's the best thing to do it."
He thinks the taxpayers will respond positively.
"You know, when it comes to safety of kids and safety of people in your community, I think it is a positive part of the whole situation."
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