LISD addresses safety, security

Photo credit: Phyllis Boddorf
Travis County Sheriff’s Office Erica Peters, senior deputy, and Steven Coleman, senior deputy, are the School Resource Officers at Vandegrift HS. Leander ISD partners with law enforcement agencies to cover all high schools.

By NICK BROTHERS, Hill Country News

In the aftermath of recent deadly high school shootings, — Santa Fe, Tex. on Friday leaving 10 dead, Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14 that left 17 dead, and others across the country this year — Leander ISD officials are addressing the district’s current safety and security systems with parents and students.

“We’re having some tough conversations right now about doing anything additional to our security upgrades,” said district spokesperson Corey Ryan. “We are working to implement programs that help build relationships between students with our faculty and staff.”

As for the notion of arming teachers in an effort to protect students, Ryan said the school district prohibits firearms on campuses and does not plan on changing its rules.

In a released statement, LISD Superintendent Dan Troxell said student safety is the district’s top priority.

“Campuses regularly practice drills for numerous situations so that staff are prepared to lead our students to safety during a real emergency,” he said. In addition to fire and tornado drills, lockdown drills are conducted each semester where occupants are to be secured behind locked doors, lights off and remain quiet until given all clear.

Enhanced security measures started in Leander ISD following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, when the district began conducting a safety audit every year — more than the state mandated audit every three years. The 2015 audit resulted in recommendations the district has implemented and is continuing to address, such as creating secure, single-point entrances at all schools. This led to front entryway renovations at LISD elementary schools in summers of 2016 and 2017, which totaled $8 million, Troxell said.

“Our board felt strongly that every school needed an upgrade and voters agreed by approving the 2017 bond,” Ryan said. “They felt it was important to prioritize security upgrades to high schools and the oldest middles schools because they don’t have secure vestibules.”

Now, all 26 elementary schools have security vestibules as the only point of entry. In order to get inside the school, visitors must present a valid photo I.D. on their first visit to a secretary behind a security window, which is cross-referenced with a national registry of sex offenders. Approved visitors are issued a badge with their name, photo, date and location of their visit, which must be worn at all times.

Many LISD middle schools and high schools are without these vestibules. With the passing of the 2017 LISD bond, the goal is to have all schools with upgraded vestibules, camera systems and lockdown abilities by 2022. The total cost will be $7.7 million for the five high schools and $9.9 million for the eight middle schools.

Cedar Park High and Middle School, Leander High and Middle schools, Vista Ridge HS and Vandegrift HS are all in the design phase of their secure vestibules. Leander HS currently has a vestibule, but not to the same degree as the elementary schools, Ryan said. The vestibules are slated to be complete by August 2019.

LISD’s newest high school, Tom Glenn, already has the full product of the district’s secure vestibule goals, but will receive an upgraded camera system and lockdown tech upgrades.

As the vestibules serve as single-point entries, other propped open doors are to be reported to school principals, Ryan said.

Additionally, other than metal detectors at the Leander Extended Opportunity Center, the district does not have them at their schools and has no plans to add more.

The district also has a team dedicated to campus security, risk management, and student support. Brad Mansfield leads that team as the senior executive director of student services.

LISD also partners with law enforcement agencies to cover all schools, including through a School Resource Officer program with nine officers working directly at all high schools. SROs work with the Texas School Safety Center in San Marcos.

Visitors to LISD elementary schools must enter through secure vestibules forcing them to check in at the main office and provide their driver’s license which is scanned and checked against a sex-offender database.