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Williams District hopes to receive $100,000 school safety grant

Keeping students safe and keeping middle school kids on track academically were some of the topics discussed at the Williams Unified School District (WUSD) Governing Board retreat Jan. 30.

School safety grant

WUSD recently applied for a $100,000 school safety grant from the Arizona Department of Education.

"This was in response to some federal money that came down after some of the school tragedies that have happened as of late," said WUSD Business Manager Melissa Ellico.

The district will find out if it received the grant in April.

WUSD's proposal included added safety features at both schools.

At the high school, the proposal called for added fencing to establish a perimeter around the campus.

"Because at the high school when you have all these multiple buildings, you have to keep the doors unlocked," Ellico said.

The grant would allow fencing to be added between the band and culinary arts rooms and between the old weight room and the vocational education building.

In the high school parking lot, a drive through gate would be installed under the proposal. The gate would be on a timer for when school started and ended. People could also buzz through to the front office to be let in. Staff like maintenance workers could use a code or a remote to enter and exit as needed.

The proposal also called for proximity systems to be installed at the school's main entrance and gym entrance. This would allow teachers and staff to gain access to the building by using a card or a key code.

Anyone else trying to access the building would buzz in using an Aiphone equipped with a video camera. Front office staff would be able to see who was there before allowing them to enter.

"You buzz in, there's a video, the office staff can then look at them and say should this parent come in, should this community member, should we let the UPS guy in, whatever it is," Ellico said.

Another part of the proposal included adding 32 video cameras to the school. Administrators recently added cameras to the interior and exterior of the weight room, the parking lot and the interior of the gym, but the current system can't accommodate any more cameras. The new system would help cover areas not currently under surveillance.

At the elementary-middle school, fencing would be added near the middle school entrance of the building to enclose the playground area.

The grant would also allow for a proximity system to be added to the main entrance, the middle school and gym entrance, the loading dock area, and both the elementary and middle school playground entrances.

The proximity system would require several new doors.

The main entrance to the elementary-middle school would also receive an Aiphone to screen visitors under the proposal.

The proposal also called for a 32 video camera system for the elementary-middle school.

If WUSD receives the grant, the improvements would likely start as soon as school lets out on May 23. The district would possibly use some money from its capital budget to pay for anything not covered in the grant.

Middle school point system

Also at the retreat, Williams Elementary-Middle School Principal Bryan Lords proposed the idea of a middle school point system to prepare students for earning class credits in high school.

"Eighth graders really don't care about their education in eighth grade because there's really no consequence," he said. "They don't have to worry about having credits to move on from grade to grade and it doesn't start until they get into their freshman year of high school."

Williams High School Principal Tristan Heisley added that incoming freshman struggle with the concept of credits at first.

"The most important year in terms of GPA is freshman year," he said. "If they get behind, it takes all three years to catch up, if they catch up."

Lords added that the transition to high school can also be difficult because of the additional extra curricular activities, which can mean less time for academics.

The middle school point system would focus on five areas: academics, attendance, tardies, behavior and transitions between the middle school and high school. Students would need six points out of 10 to continue to the next grade level.

"Essentially it's ensuring that every student is prepared to be successful in high school and beyond," Lords said. "So we want to prepare them now, starting in sixth grade, rather than starting their freshman year of high school for what the world's going to be like."

The middle school teachers helped come up with the point system. Social studies teacher Susan Hamilton, who used to be a principal in Kingman, used the point system there.

"She said it worked better than the credit system because it didn't seem like they were losing credits as much as they were earning the points," Lords said.

For the academic portion, students would earn a total of five points, one for every class they passed with a 60 percent or higher.

Any student who failed two core subjects for the year would not be promoted without successfully completing summer school, and any student who failed three or more core subjects would be retained.

"When you're looking at the kids that are not performing in the middle school, it's one of two things: it's a can't do or it's a won't do," WUSD Superintendent Rachel Savage said. "And unfortunately I think we have some motivation issues in the middle school."

Students could also earn a total of two points for having few unexcused absences, a total of one point for having few tardies, and a total of two points for having few referrals and detentions. The points would be awarded in 0.5 point increments depending on the range of infractions.

Lords said the points system was a good way to hold middle school students accountable.

"It's important to remember that progressing to the next grade level and/or high school is not automatic," he said. "A lot of kids think it is."

Savage said she liked the idea of the points system.

"It's a way to really quantify it in simple terms that they can understand," she said.

Board Member David Nenne suggested if the point system were to start next year, students should find out how many points they would have had this year if the system had been in effect.

"That might be a wake up call," he said.

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