Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

LGMS will show off new visitor entrance

by Lisa Seiser

September 01, 2011

Safety has long been a concern in the Lake Geneva Schools. In previous summers, changes have been made to the entryways at Badger High School and Eastview Elementary School to improve safety for the students, teachers and staff.

This summer it was Lake Geneva Middle School’s turn.

Those visiting LGMS during the school day will enter through the office, which has been moved. It is now at the main entrance to the building, just on the left. A sign is posted guiding all visitors to the office.

There, visitors will speak with a staff member, sign in and then be able to enter the foyer of the building and head to their destinations.

Previously, the front doors were open and visitors could enter the school free to wander the halls.

“It’s a lot safer,” Assistant Principal Drew Halbesma said. “It was a concern for sure, but now it is awesome. It was much needed.”

Lake Geneva Schools Business Manager Warren Flitcroft, who headed the effort for the renovation, said the security changes are key to protecting the students and staff at the schools.

“The world is changing,” Flitcroft said. “The middle school is the last school (in the district) to do this.”

He said schools can go very far in their efforts to secure a building, including spending large amounts of money on state-of-the-art equipment to make it as safe as possible and something could still happen. He said a school could have little or no security and nothing may ever happen.

“When it comes to safety at schools, where does it start and where does it stop?” he said.

Flitcroft said the Lake Geneva Schools have chosen the middle concept. Other smaller schools who have not chosen renovation have video cameras, where a visitor must ring a bell that goes to the office and a staff member buzzes the person in. That visitor is then supposed to go to the office to sign in.

Flitcroft said the district looked at various options, but school officials believed this was the best solution to the issue at LGMS.

He said there were questions about using video and door ringers because of the high volume of students at the school. He also thought the interaction with the staff member made things more “welcoming” to visitors.

At the middle school, Badger and Eastview, those visiting directly must walk into the office, speak face-to-face with a staff member and then can enter the building.

All other doors will be locked, requiring visitors to enter only through the office, to the left of the main entryway.

“This will just make everyone feel safer,” Halbesma said. “It was a problem, but this will be great to make sure everyone is accountable and that we know everyone in the building. It will be a good thing for everyone.”

The work at LGMS cost nearly $112,000 and will be paid for through the fund balance.

Halbesma said there were three differing ideas on how to make the improvements.

“This one was the most conducive to our educational efforts here,” Halbesma said.

The work lasted about eight weeks and is now complete.

Principal Anne Heck’s office was moved and now takes up a good portion of what was the main office entryway. A conference center had to be moved because that is where the new main office is.

Another added safety feature is the Lake Geneva Police Department liaison office has a window which allows the officer to see into the LGMS foyer.

High expectations

Halbesma said there are no new programs at LGMS, but there are some aspects of education teachers and staff will be focusing on for the 2011-12 school year.

Response to Intervention (RTI) and Positive Behavioral Support (PBS) are two aspects the school is “hitting hard” this year according to Halbesma.

“We don’t have any new programs,” he said. “We are trying to get better at what we do. We’re keeping it simple.”

Halbesma said through RTI, there are new “formative assessments,” which include checking more regularly for understanding of what is occurring in the classroom.

“Instead of the big test at the end of the chapter, we are testing every day,” he said. “Did they get it? We have a learning goal, then we have the lesson and then we do something simple to see if they got it.”

That testing can occur using short quizzes, a checked answer as they leave the classroom, or by using new technology such as Smart Boards.

Proper behavior has long been a goal of the staff at LGMS. Halbesma said it’s about teaching positive behaviors and expected behaviors in the hallways, in the buses, at recess and in the lunch room.

“These are little things people take for granted that we are not that great at,” Halbesma said. “We want to get better. If in middle school we can make them better citizens, they become better students.”

Enrollment up slightly

The 2012-13 school year should be interesting when it comes to enrollment, but there will be little difference for this year as opposed to last when it comes to enrollment.

Halbesma said the school expects about 660 students in sixth through eighth grades at LGMS. That is the number the enrollment at the school has remained around for a few years.

However, next year will be quite different. With the district’s smallest class, the current eighth-graders, leaving the middle school, and the largest class, the current fifth-graders, coming in, that will mean about 100 more students at the school for 2012-13.

“It’s going to be a big change,” Halbesma said.

But, the school won’t be at capacity.

The limit is 800 at the school, according to Halbesma.