Districts ask for security improvement funding

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — School districts across West Michigan are asking voters for money to improve security.

A Target 8 investigation revealed that several Rockford schools needed some improvements. The superintendent there called a meeting within an hour to address as many as possible. The district will present voters with a bond proposal May 6.

But the investigation wasn’t just about Rockford. It was about all of our schools.

Most of the districts Target 8 spoke to say the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary that left 26 people — 20 of them children — dead changed how they look at security. Who the victims were and where the tragedy happened made everyone realize a similar incident could happen anywhere. Districts want to be prepared just in case.

But many schools weren’t built with today’s security concerns in mind.

Muskegon Public Schools’ Glenside Elementary, which was built in the 1950s, is one of them. There, the front office there is about 50 yards — or six classrooms — away from the front door.

“It’s a bad architectural design in 2014,” Muskegon Superintendent Jon Felske told Target 8. “It wasn’t back in the day when it was built.”

Felske said that the original front door of schools built in the ’50s were designed with walkers in mind, and these days it makes more sense for doors to be near parking lots. The only problem is that means a long walk to the office to check in.

Felske society has evolved and the buildings haven’t.

“I think you can attribute some of it to [the shooting at] Sandy Hook, and obviously it resonates that it isn’t something that happens only once in the history of our country,” Felske said. “Once it happened at Columbine, there seems to be a consistent trend of them happening around the country.”

So could his schools pass Target 8’s test?

“I think some of our buildings the way they are currently operating would do well, but others of our buildings — because of the physical structure when they’re built — probably wouldn’t do as well,” Felske said.

All 11 districts in Muskegon County are asking voters to approve a one mill increase for the next 10 years to improve both security and technology. Bond publications state that would translate to an about $65 increase on a home valued at $82,000.

A flyer explaining a requested millage in Muskegon County. (Feb. 12, 2014)
A flyer explaining a requested millage in Muskegon County. (Feb. 12, 2014)

For Muskegon Public Schools, the millage would mean more than $700,000 each year. The money would be used to do things like add more security cameras at schools both inside and out, as well as on every school bus.

It would also go toward redesigning fronts of buildings, like Glenside, so visitors would have to be buzzed into the school from a secure vestibule, rather walking the two full minutes from each entrance to the office to check in.

Ionia is also attempting a county-wide, five-year millage for both security and technology.

Both millages go before voters on Feb. 25.

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For more information:

Rockford’s millage

Muskegon’s millage

Ionia’s miillage

Inside woodtv.com:

 Security at schools: Taking the test

 Interview: Shibler discusses Target 8 security test

 Target 8 surveys schools on security policies

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