$1.8 million alarm system for Green Bay schools is first of its kind in Wisconsin

Screenshot from Centegix video of its visual, color-coded alert system
Screenshot from Centegix video of its visual, color-coded alert system
Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 4:58 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Every Green Bay area public school will soon have new technology installed to improve security. The system, which will cost $1.8 million over the next 5 years, is the first of its kind in Wisconsin.

The new crisis alert system will be in more than 40 buildings. Installation will start in the spring, then students and staff will undergo training to ensure they know how to react to the alerts, from the high school level to kindergarten.

Amid concerns over school safety, the Green Bay Area Public School District agreed to partner with a Georgia-based company, Centegix.

”The catalyst was a swatting incident that happened in one of our schools that happened earlier in the year. This is something that happened across the country, and as we do, anytime we have an incident, we debrief and afterwards recognize the response and concern about communication in rooms that are typically loud,” interim Superintendent Vicki Bayer said.

A promotional video shows the system uses strobe lights to provide visual cues. This is especially important because it’s not always possible to hear public address announcements in a band class or gymnasium, for example.

Different colors alert people to different emergencies. One color could signal an active shooter; another color, a medical emergency or severe weather threat.

Staff would have badges to activate the system or even lock down the school.

“It was requested by school staff that we do a better job, that we take a look at what’s out there to help improve upon this. They were asking for a solution. Josh and his team found one,” Superintendent Bayer said, referring to Chief Operations Officer Josh Patchak.

However, Centegix hasn’t been without controversy. A North Carolina school district filed a federal lawsuit against the company, alleging the system didn’t work as it should have. The suit was settled in 2020.

Green Bay school officials say they’re aware of that lawsuit but have contacted other schools that haven’t had any problems.

“We got informed they have a 98 percent renewal rate, so at the end of the day, after talking to other people, we determined that they have those issues behind them,” Patchak said.

This is a huge investment at a time when board members admit money is tight. There’s also a recurring, yearly fee of more than $325,000 if the contract is renewed beyond the initial 5 years.

One school board member, Nancy Welsh, did question the cost. “The cost of the system is over $40,000 per school. Therefore, I feel we have very little to lose by seeking competitive bids,” Welsh said.

The hope is to have the system operational by the fall.

Jason Zimmerman discusses details of the $1.8 million system going into 40 school buildings