Homestead increasing security

Published on: 1/23/2013

Mequon - With safety and security heightened topics of concern in schools across the nation, officials in the Mequon-Thiensville district are in the process of reviewing potential improvements at each building.

Homestead High School, which is not as secured as the district's other five facilities, is being fast-tracked to have a number of changes in the months ahead.

The School Board on Monday voted in favor of a number of changes, including an extra set of doors at Homestead's main entrance and the heightened visibility of the school's resource officer. The project carries a projected $50,000 price tag, but will be offset by a $25,000 Focus on Energy rebate.

Kyle Thompson, director of buildings and grounds, said the remaining $25,000 could be covered by funds previously earmarked in the district's utility and snow removal account because of the mild winter. The technology budget also will be tapped to cover some of the cost.

As part of its motion Monday, the board entered the district into a contract with Beeler Construction to handle many facets of the project. Beeler's work is not to exceed $38,000.

Homestead's current entry configuration includes two external and one internal set of doors.

While the external doors are locked outside the parameters of the school day - before 6:30 a.m. and after 3:30 p.m. - the doors are accessible during the school day. Once inside, visitors are greeted to a movable plastic chain barrier that is designed to funnel people toward a desk to register.

Thompson came before the board with a plan to alter the existing configuration.

'This project will add an extra internal entry door that will be tied to the existing security system,' Thompson said. '(It) will allow staff and authorized personnel access to Homestead … while restricting access to visitors.'

The changes will include construction of two new offices at Homestead's entrance in an effort to further monitor who is coming and going from the school. Personnel in one office will have duties that include monitoring door entry, while the school resource officer will work out of the second office.

Homestead Principal Brett Bowers said it is possible responsibilities could be shuffled between members of the school's support staff, so matters related to the health office and attendance will still be addressed.

'We've had preliminary discussions with our secretarial staff … so we don't have any gaps in service,' Bowers said.

Several board members had an opportunity to review the proposed plans in advance of Monday's meeting, and support for the project was widespread.

'It is aesthetically pleasing,' board member Cheryle Rebholz said. 'It has the safety factor. But it also has that open-air feeling, so it doesn't look like a prison or institution. It lends itself as a deterrent.'

Plans call for having the project completed by mid-March, meaning construction will be taking place during the school year. Thompson said the work will be designed to have minimal disruptions while classes are in session.

Bob Wells, an English teacher at Homestead, said he was not concerned the construction work would have an adverse impact on class instruction.

'Longtime teachers will know that this will be a piece of cake, compared to the construction that happened a couple of years ago, and for a longer period of time,' Wells said.

In the months ahead, administrators and the board plan to discuss possible security changes at the district's three elementary schools and two middle schools. Down the line, changes also could be implemented at the district office, which is located within Homestead.

'We're focused on what we really need to do now for the buildings where there is access to children,' Superintendent Demond Means said. 'That is what is most pressing for us right now.'