While legislative proposals for increased campus safety won’t be considered until next year, San Antonio-area school systems aren’t waiting on Austin.
Independent school districts including Judson, Northside, North East, San Antonio and elsewhere are making buildings more secure, changing requirements for student backpacks, adding police, maintaining anonymous tip lines and implementing other measures to ensure students have a safe learning environment.
In 2015, North East Independent School District voters approved a nearly $500 million bond, with $20 million allocated to campus safety and security.
The enhancements range from keyless-entry vestibules and upgraded campus-police monitoring and dispatch facilities to improved parking lot and interior night lighting.
NEISD spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor said 19 institutions, as part of the bond, are being equipped with secured hallways. Eleven of the entryways, all located at the main entrances and exits, are complete and are in use. The rest will be completed by the start of the school year.
“Entrances and exits at all schools will be locked during normal school hours starting with the 2018-2019 school year,” she said. “We are adding keyless access control and there will be a buzz-in camera system at the main door where everyone will have to wait for access if it’s during normal school hours.”
Also, NEISD is requiring clear backpacks for all middle and high school students when classes resume this fall.
According to an NEISD release, “Elementary school students will be allowed to continue using traditional backpacks. Band and athletic bags will still be permitted, as well as purses and lunch bags.”
As with any new policy, reactions from parents and pupils have been mixed, Chancellor said.
In addition, a clear-bag policy will be enforced at all its sporting events. Camera bags, briefcases, purses, backpacks and other items are prohibited.
At NISD, spokesman Barry Perez said many safety and security controls already exist. However, there are no plans to implement a districtwide policy requiring clear backpacks.
NISD maintains its own 100-member police department. Officers are assigned at every middle and high school. At the elementary level, the district uses a cluster-concept that assigns one police officer to monitor a small group of campuses.
“A significant number of our elementary schools have bullet-resistant security lobbies that allow for monitored access of all visitors,” Perez said. “With funds from the voter-approved school bond 2018, we will be installing security lobbies at all remaining elementary campuses that do not currently have one — a total of 44 campus sites.”
The electorate OK’d the $848.91 million bond in May.
Though lobbies will see no heightened surveillance at secondary schools, more than 7,500 security cameras are directly accessible by campus administrators and NISD police for speedy responses.
The district also maintains the Northside Safeline where callers dialing 210-397-7233 or texting firstname.lastname@example.org can anonymously report concerns day and night.
Also, a campus officer provides training to the staff on various scenarios, including active-shooter situations.
At older facilities, measures such as improved doors have been installed.
In JISD, not many extra security actions are needed at most venues because so many of them are new, spokesman Steve Linscomb said.
However, at older campuses such as Hopkins Elementary School, vestibules easily accessible to hallways and classrooms have been redesigned, he added.
Also, active-shooter training classes for campuses and administration facilities, plus enhanced practice drills, were added to school schedules districtwide.
Leslie Price at SAISD said the district’s safety program revolves around its police department reviewing emergency plans and providing school support.
District police officers also work closely with other law-enforcement agencies.
SAISD has secure facilities relying on key-card door systems requiring all visitors be buzzed in when classes are in session; video cameras; mandatory emergency-preparedness training for every campus; and student safety drills.
SAISD’s multihazard oversight committee is reviewing practices and policies for school safety, and the revised plan should be solidified by early August.