Calling it part of the group's continued efforts to amp up security in Port Washington-Saukville schools, board members on Monday night approved the end of voting inside district buildings.
"We don't want it to happen, but it's something we have to do for safety in our buildings," board member Brian McCutcheon said. Using the schools as polling places had once been considered an educational opportunity, however, the board members agreed the practice now offers more risks than advantages.
Two buildings in the Port Washington-Saukville School District — Dunwiddie Elementary and Thomas Jefferson Middle School — have been used as polling locations during elections in Port Washington for at least the 27 years that City Administrator Mark Grams has held his position in Port.
The board voted unanimously to end voting in the schools, with little further discussion. The vote in essence takes effect in 2014, because students are on spring break during the upcoming April elections and there are no fall elections in the area.
End of voting just one step in security revamp
The School Board on Monday also voted to give the Building and Grounds Committee — the group that has been making recommendations about security improvements to school buildings for the board to consider — the power to make certain decisions on the board's behalf, such as appointing an architect for the reconstruction of entrances to elementary schools for improved safety.
"That's just to keep the process moving, so that if we hit any kind of difficult situation that we can (move forward) without getting the whole board together," McCutcheon said.
As the first step in increasing security measures, officials added a buzzer and camera system to elementary schools that parents and visitors have to ring before being allowed into the buildings. The buzzer and camera system is considered a short-term fix to the outdated system of open doors and signs sending visitors to the school's office, and the Building and Grounds committee expects it will soon receive bids from local architects on reconstructing school entrances for added security; officials hope that work will take place this summer.
Buzzer system going smooth so far
Dunwiddie Elementary Principal Diane Johnson and Saukville Elementary Principal Chad Brakke said the added buzzer and camera system has been well recieved at both schools.
"People have opinions about everything, but they know we're doing it for the right reasons," Brakke said.
Johnson said the elementary school had been sending messages to parents about the change for a couple months, preparing them for the switch — something she believes helped in creating the positive reaction.
Officials have been reviewing security procedures in Port Washington-Saukville Schools since tragedy shook an elementary school in the Newtown, CT, elementary school in December.
This has included an increase in the number of lockdown drills conducted at the schools, as well as a desire to participate in table top exercises to help coordinate effective safety procedures, something suggested by law enforcement several years ago when staff participated in an emergency training exercise with law enforcement.