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School, Wausau officials exploring ways to make children, neighborhoods safer

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Dr. Kathleen Williams addresses Wausau City Council as Dr. Jeff Lindell and Franklin Elementary School Principal Jon Euting look on.
Dr. Kathleen Williams addresses Wausau City Council as Dr. Jeff Lindell and Franklin Elementary School Principal Jon Euting look on.

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- Wausau School District officials would like to partner further with the City of Wausau to make neighborhoods safer for children.

Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Williams, Pupil Services Director Dr. Jeff Lindell, and Franklin Elementary School Principal Jon Euting addressed Wausau’s city council this week looking for ways to keep kids safe from dangerous and illegal activities.

Dr. Williams says most people are wonderful citizens, but there have been a few isolated incidents of criminal activity that make her concerned for the safety of kids between school and home. That’s why she’s asking if more can be done.  "We really can’t control what goes on in individual households or private residences, so I’m hoping that we can explore ideas similar to Neighborhood Watch, or Safe Passages, where we get the citizens of our respective attendance areas involved and engaged with local law enforcement supporting that effort.”

Many children are outdoors alone without adults, and could be exposed to criminal activity or get hurt because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  “We have children who play outdoors, that are on playgrounds. They walk to and from schools. It’s a neighborhood issue that our school happens to be located in, so we want to be part of solving the problem as well.”

Lindell says the district wants to work with city government, the police and fire departments, and the citizens together to both spot and report suspicious activities and to do things that keep kids safe outside.  “We want our efforts to be collaborative in nature. This isn’t a Wausau School District problem. It’s not a Wausau Police Department problem. It’s a community concern, and what we want to do is work collaboratively with our citizens, with our council, with the police department to come up with an avenue where we can make positive change.”

Police Chief Jeff Hardel says Wausau police and fire units already have a great working relationship with the school, but he’s interested in what else can be done to reduce crime and dangers to children. At this stage, Hardel says it is a matter of looking for more ideas.  "Maybe we’ll look at having a specific officer assigned to some neighborhood watch groups or some neighbor to neighbor groups, so that we have a more formalized process with the neighborhood watch groups, and then take more of a leadership role in that. Maybe we’ll look at expanding the school resource officer program. We’ll reach out to some other departments around the state and outside the state to see what they’re doing.”

Whatever new ideas are pursued, they could cost money.  Wausau is already asking departments to cut one percent from the 2015 budget. Hardel says if they come up with additional plans, there may be some grant funding available to help pay for it.  “We have not applied for any grants, but there’s a lot of opportunities, so I think that we’re going to look at some grant opportunities to see if that’s a possibility, to get us at least started with a special project."

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