BCISD calls for safety help

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BCISD officials call for school safety help


By Alexandria Randolph

HLN Correspondent

Burnet Consolidated ISD officials are calling for state leadership and funding for security enhancements in response to school safety measures suggested by the Texas Education Agency.

While recent school safety drills were motivated by a the school shooting tragedy at Parkland, Fl., school safety and security has always been an issue of constant vigilance for BCISD, said Superintendent Keith McBurnett.

“School safety and security has been a primary focus for Burnet CISD in the six years I have been with the district. During that time, we have continually reviewed our safety protocols and put in place a number of safety and security enhancements like secure entry ways, fencing and the addition of two school resource officers just to name a few,” McBurnett said.

He added that the tragedy in Parkland “was the motivation to conduct an additional lock down drill at each campus within the past two weeks supervised by law enforcement. This allowed another set of eyes to look at our lock down process and (allowed us) to get feedback from law enforcement to improve our safety procedures.”

Bertram Police Chief J.J. Wilson said Bertram Elementary is holding drills twice a month.

“We’re making sure we’re prepared,” he said. “We want to plan for all possibilities and we’re going over different scenarios.”

While severe weather and fire drills are common, school safety drills featuring the possibility of an aggressor are becoming more and more frequent for public schools.

“It’s something new for educators,” he said. “It’s unfortunate we have to do this, but it’s our new normal.”

Wilson wants to make sure his officers are extremely familiar with the campuses – “every hallway, every doorway, every fence,” he said. “As first responders, we know our part. In the past, officers held back and waited for SWAT. We don’t do that anymore. We go in.”

McBurnett agreed that active shooter drills have become “routine in school settings. I think all educators wish that there wasn’t a need to have security measures like drills or secure entry ways in place, but our staff and students have expressed appreciation for the security upgrades. Our staff understands the importance of having security measures in place and the need to practice those procedures.”

To address parents and community members about security issues, the district will hold a School Safety Community Forum on Tuesday, March 20 at 6 p.m. at the BCISD Board Room, 208 East Brier.

Security measures

In addition to more officers on BCISD campuses, the district also uses the Raptor Visitor Management System, which requires all visitors to check-in at the front office and undergo a screening before entering any campus, McBurnett said.

“The 2014 Bond provided funding to add secure entry ways at all campuses and exterior fencing to campuses with multiple buildings,” he said, as well as a new proximity card access control system, allowing all exterior doors on all campuses to be locked and unlocked immediately and remotely in the event of an emergency.

“All secondary campuses currently have security camera systems and elementary campuses are in the process of being equipped with security cameras,” he added.

These cameras can be viewed remotely by police officers within their patrol vehicles during emergencies.

All classrooms on every campus have telephones for routine and emergency communication, and each campus is equipped with a radio with a panic button that, when activated, opens a channel directly to Burnet County dispatch officers, McBurnett said.

Funding school safety

Burnet CISD has spent “well over $1 million in security enhancements in the past five years,” McBurnett said. “Next year, for the first time in the history of the district, Burnet CISD is projected to send $350,000 of local revenue to the Texas Education Agency as part of the ‘Robin Hood’ school finance system.”

These funds will be redistributed to other school districts in Texas and not available to be used for security enhancements, he said. In a recent memo to Texas school districts, the agency suggested several safety enhancement options – some of which were already in place for BCISD.

“Although I appreciate the thought behind the memo, the Texas Education Agency and the legislature could provide real leadership and assistance to school districts by providing additional funding to be used by local districts to enhance safety and security measures,” he said.

Perhaps already hearing the call for increased security at Texas public school campuses, on Feb. 28, Congressman Roger Williams introduced H.R. 5107, a bill that would authorize the national Secretary of Education to create a grant program to provide public schools with resources and funding for security measures.

“Our top priority must be the safety of our nation’s children and keeping our schools safe,” Williams stated in a news release. “The ultimate mission of the Department (of Education) must be securing our schools and protecting our students, and my bill will empower it to do so.”

The grants permitted by the bill would fund evaluation of security improvements including metal detectors, staff safety training, bulletproof glass and additional law enforcement officers for campuses.

Williams stated that currently, public school students and teachers remain “an open target to terrorism” and passing the legislation should be a “no-brainer.”

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