As concerns about school safety heighten, the State of Michigan has responded by giving $25 million in grants to schools around the state in order to fortify school campuses. After applying for this grant, Jonesville public schools will receive $224,473.
Superintendent of Jonesville Community Schools Chellie Broesamle was responsible for writing the grant proposal, which she submitted in early September and received approval at the end of October.
A few of the upgrades include bulletproof ballistic shields which will fortify windows, placards for each classroom so that police officers can easily identify a specific classroom, a lighting system to notify people that there is a lockdown, and a sound system which will notify police officers the exact location of a gunshot and the gun that was used.
Another one of the upgrades is the Boot, which is rectangular-shaped plate of thick steel, meant to withstand 16,000 pounds of pressure. Once the Boot is pulled from its case, an alert is sent to the police station and emergency services that an intruder is on the premises. Placed next to any door, the Boot then serves as a barricade of sorts.
“The BOOT system has been shown to delay an intruder from getting into the classroom,” Jonesville Police Chief Mike Lance said. “It’s probably one of the most simple but most effective things I’ve seen in law enforcement in terms of getting the door secure.”
Many of these upgrades are meant to delay the intruder for as long as possible.
“The hope is you save the time so people can shut the doors, lock them out and then you’re safe,” Broesamle said.
Before writing the proposal every school had to update all safety plans for each school in order to qualify for the grant.
Director of Hillsdale Emergency Services Douglas Sanford was responsible for reviewing and improving the updated school building emergency plans.
“Jonesville Community Schools takes the safety and security of their students and staff very seriously,” Sanford wrote in an email. “And they have developed a good plan that more than met all of the requirements put in place by the State of Michigan.”
After this process was finished, Broesamle created a list of security upgrades the schools wanted to make.
According to Sanford, his experiences with Broesamle have shown her to be particularly dedicated.
“She is always top notch, gets things done, and works in the best interest of her students and district,” Sanford said.
Now that the grant has been approved, the next step is to request the money from the school board and start making purchases. The state will then reimburse these purchases.
Given the seeming increase in school shootings, security upgrades have become what seems like a necessity. In his interactions with community members, Lance has seen a dedication to keeping the children of Jonesville schools safe.
“Every time there’s been a school shooting we always have somebody that comes to the school that wants to take an active role,” Lance said. “I’ve had retired service people, grandfathers, who would say they would come to the school and act as a security guard. Without fail it happens every time.”
Despite this ultimately not being an option, Lance says the security upgrades provide a tangible step in preventing a school emergency.
“They want to make sure their kids are safe there,” Lance said. “It’s very good that you can tell them that these things are being implemented.”
Broesamle has also had good experiences with the parents of Jonesville students.
“Our students and parents are very good about alerting us if they think there’s something out there on Facebook or something,” Broesamle said. “They have been phenomenal in that area. People are aware and paying attention.”
Throughout this process, Broesamle has struggled to determine how much the school should be fortified.
“You would like schools to just be open,” she said. “That’s what I struggle with. How much do you fortify a school? We want it to be a welcoming place.”
Broesamle has tried to find a happy balance between the two.
“We try to make sure it’s welcoming but still has safety in place that’s going to make it work,” Broesamle said.
However, Broesamle feels that the Jonesville community is ultimately a safe place to live.
“This is a safe community,” she said. “It’s a very wonderful place to raise your kids and send your kids to school. This is just an extra opportunity to provide safety in case something ever did happen.”