Viroqua Area Schools, De Soto Area Schools and Westby Area School District are among the 81 schools and school districts that combined will receive $4,771,686 from the first round of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) School Safety Grant program. The announcement was made July 30.
According to a press release from the DOJ, Attorney General Brad Schimel recently announced plans for a second round of grant funding by utilizing the approximately $45 million in remaining school safety money available. The second round of funding will focus on advanced initiatives to bolster student mental health, the creation of local School Safety Intervention teams, and additional physical security upgrades. The next round of grants will be awarded starting in October.
Viroqua Area Schools received $99,195, De Soto Area Schools received $60,879 and Westby Area Schools received $83,669.
“As a district we have always taken student safety very seriously,” District Administrator Dr. Kehl Arnson wrote in an email. “This funding will allow us to make some needed improvements that will help keep our schools safe.”
VAS will be using its safety grant funding to complete projects in five major areas to improve its school safety programs.
The Viroqua school district will be adding approximately 64 security cameras and supporting technology throughout the district; adding security film on the glass at all of the main entrances; adding electronic “security key” mechanisms to external doors at prioritized areas where teachers and students enter during the day (for example, at the doors where elementary students exit and enter for outdoor recess); investing in training on Trauma Informed Care for the staff to help them better understand and support the challenges that students face; and expanding its ALICE training (Emergency Response and Active Shooter Response Training) for staff that includes training more on-staff leaders for ongoing safety training.
Linzi Gronning, DAS superintendent and De Soto Middle School/High School principal, said in an email the district intends to apply for the second round of grants which focus on mental health training for staff and students, allowing the district to “expand its preventative and responsive efforts.”
“This training is something we have initiated several years ago providing training for students in the BE SAFE program, along with an introduction to Mental Health First Aid for all middle/high school students at the start of last school year, as well as all district teachers,” Gronning said. “Prior to the start of this school year, on Monday, Aug. 27, all district teaching staff will take part in an eight-hour certification course on Mental Health First Aid.”
“Additionally, all district employees received the three-hour Trauma Informed Care training last June and all teachers and bus drivers have received CPI (Crisis Prevention Intervention) training,” Gronning wrote in the email. “We believe having our staff informed, and providing education to students which increases self-awareness and resiliency empowers students to respond to stressful and challenging situations they face.”