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TEA gives school districts summer assignment to beef up security

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 19:38:31-04

ALICE, Texas — The mass shooting in Uvalde that left 19 students and two teachers dead on May 24 will lead to new safety measures in Texas public schools.

Thursday, the Texas Education Agency put school districts on notice that those changes must be in place when the new school year starts.

In a memo to school districts, the TEA lists seven items the agency wants done by the start of next school year. At the top, two specific safety changes, designed to keep people who don't belong in schools, out.

"It's for the safety of our kids,” said Alice Independent school District Deputy Superintendent Guillermo Ruiz.

Part of Ruiz’s job is handling the district's security. He and his security team spent part of Friday figuring out how to implement the TEA's new mandates.

Those mandates include summer audits of security procedures and exterior doors. In Uvalde, the shooter entered Robb Elementary School through an unlocked door.

That tragedy hit a little too close to home.

“When Columbine happened, then Sandy Hook, and Santa Fe, everyone starts looking at (security), but Uvalde is at our back door,” Ruiz said.

The mandates also require districts check school doors once a week once classes are back in session. And this summer, a review and updating of access control procedures.

In other words, making sure schools are controlling who gets in.

“All our doors are locked, we have one entrance when school starts,” Ruiz said. “One entrance at every building is best practice.”

Alice ISD’s doors won't need to be updated, but other districts aren't as lucky, which means spending money they may not have.

Some grant money is available from the state, but not enough to cover every district’s needs.

“If we could get some help from the state when they issue mandates, for them to cover them, would be great,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said one big change Alice ISD will have security-wise when classes resume is that each campus will have its own school resource officer.

Those are off-duty Alice Police Department officers the district pays $30 an hour.

Soon however, Alice could be joining the growing list of districts with their own police force.

The topic will be discussed at this month's Alice ISD board meeting. District officials estimate the cost of starting a police department will be around $500,000.

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