With the new school year right around the corner, school districts throughout La Crosse County have been working hard this summer to improve security measures.
School officials believe there is always room for improvement when it comes to the security of school buildings. Not only are schools updating the technology by adding cameras and intercom systems, but some are in the process of completely redoing their entrances to make them more secure.
For the past 20 years, this room at West Salem Elementary School has been home to many kindergarten classes. However, that's all about to change.
"We are going to remodel it into an office. This room was selected because it is the first room to the right of the current entry which will allow us to have a secured entry at the front of the building when people enter during the day,” said Troy Gunderson, superintendent of the West Salem School District.
When you enter West Salem’s Elementary School, you pass through a glass foyer and end up right in the middle of the hallway with access to the entire school.
"With the distance between the front doors and the office, there's people coming in and you don't really know where they go,” said Gunderson.
Plus, with so many pre-K classes going on, people are constantly shuffling into the school without much of a warning.
"We just realized how vulnerable we are in terms of just controlling people in and out during the day,” said Gunderson.
That vulnerability served as a wake-up call to make a change.
“In this room you are going to see in the corner over there a separate door and a secure area, so a person will have to come in, be greeted and then there will be a buzzer system that will allow them to even enter,” said Gunderson
Along with West Salem, North Woods International School, Summit Elementary, Southern Bluffs Elementary and Lincoln Middle School in the La Crosse School District are also getting an update. Many of the schools already have cameras and intercom systems installed but need an entrance to match.
"Now it's about modifying the physical structure to help guide people to the right location so that we know frankly who is in the building and where they are going into the building,” said Jason Showen, buildings and grounds manager for the La Crosse School District.
Although it can be a long and tedious process, school officials know it's a necessary one.
"We are looking forward to just providing a safer place for our kids to go to school,” said Gunderson.
West Salem's school board is expected to finalize the plans for the new front office by early next week.
Gunderson said the entrance should be completed by mid-November.
The new front office at West Salem is being paid for by a referendum that passed this spring allowing the school to make security updates.