Hutto ISD implementing campus safety improvements for 2023-24 school year | #schoolsaftey

Taller fencing, ballistic window film and classroom button alarms are some of the upgrades coming to Hutto ISD for the 2023-24 school year.

District officials provided an update for the board of trustees Aug. 10, giving a preview of some future decisions that will come to the board.

In a nutshell

HISD Assistant Superintendent of Operations Henry Gideon; HISD police Chief William Edwards; and Chris Contreras, HISD’s safety and emergency operations supervisor, shared updates on several safety and security updates mandated by the Texas Education Agency and the state Legislature.

The specifics

Texas lawmakers passed several initiatives this year, including:

  • HB 3: requires armed security guards on all charter and public school campuses
  • SB 838: requires silent panic alert devices in all public and charter school classrooms by the 2025-26 school year

What’s happening?

The district is in the process of implementing several improvements to enhance safety and security on its campuses, including:

  • Taller fences: Although not mandated by the state, Contreras said the district is taking a suggestion from the TEA and increasing the height of fencing at HISD campuses from existing 4- and 6-foot-tall barriers to 8-foot-tall fences. Cottonwood Creek Elementary School’s fencing replacement was completed in early August, he said.
  • Ballistic film: Safety film will be installed on the windows of HISD campuses beginning at the end of August and going into September, Contreras said. Similar to taller fencing, he said this is a suggestion from the TEA but is not required.
  • Master keys: As required by state law, the district will provide master keys and access cards to local law enforcement agencies and district police.
  • Direct 911: Law enforcement agencies can now be reached by directly dialing 911 on HISD phones without having to enter any additional numbers to call externally.
  • Silent buttons: Silent alarms will be installed in classrooms across the district.

Additionally, the district is working to identify the best way to comply with HB 3, which will go into effect Sept. 1. Edwards said the district has a few options, ranging from simply expanding the police department so that an armed officer is on each campus to contracting with third-party services or individuals with the appropriate certifications necessary to carry a firearm on campus.

The total costs associated with the first method, Edwards said, would be around $1.38 million for the first year, accounting for one-time purchases—such as vehicles, individual equipment and psychological evaluations—in addition to ongoing salary costs from adding new full-time employees. Subsequent years would see around $691,295 in recurring costs, he said.

While the state has allocated some funding to offset the burden of costs associated with having an armed security guard on each campus, officials said this is not enough to cover the program. The board will decide how best to comply with this new requirement at its Aug. 24 meeting.

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