St. Mary School gets safety bump from state

July 14, 2018

St. Mary School in Portage will improve its entryway security this summer after it received $15,900 from the state for school safety.

The money comes from the latest round of distributions from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which is issuing a total of $100 million in safety grants to schools throughout the state.

“We’re thrilled,” Principal Jamie Hahn said. “Anything we can do to keep our building safe and keep our students in a safe environment is our top priority.”

New hardware for the school’s doors should be completed before the end of the summer. School leaders identified what was needed with help from the Portage Police Department and Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, which provided letters of recommendation during the grant application process.

Lisa Clemmons, the church’s facility and events coordinator, received a lion’s share of the credit from Hahn for the school’s successful application. Clemmons said she spent untold hours working in the application process — all of it worth it.

“It’s gratifying to know that our students’ safety is of the utmost import, regardless of being parochial vs. public,” Clemmons said. “It is bottom line student safety. It will greatly assist us to make this improvement by having this grant money.”

“We work very hard here to guard our doors for school, but it just makes it that much easier to have this new level of technology put in,” Clemmons continued. Being awarded the full amount in its request marked “an extremely proud moment for us as a school.”

“We tried really hard to be practical in the application so that we weren’t asking for the moon. We kept it simple,” and now the door system at the school will get everything it needs, Clemmons said.

Hahn also thanked local law enforcement for leading a reunification drill held at the school in March. Parents in the district that day practiced picking up their children from holding areas in a mock emergency.

“It was excellent,” Hahn said. “We learned a lot, spotting hiccups along the way when and if an emergency happens.”

Simple things like parents updating their emergency information were accomplished during the reunification drill — important because “there is no way to identify parents from a volunteer standpoint” if information for parents is not current, Hahn said.

Regularly, the school practices all required emergency drills, including for tornadoes, fire and lockdown — drills that involve all of the school’s children from grades 4K through 8, Hahn explained.

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