ECTOR COUNTY, Texas — With school safety more important than ever, the State of Texas is placing strong requirements on school districts. On September 1st, a law will go into place that forces every school district to have at least one armed guard on every campus.
The new requirements are virtually impacting every school district a little differently. Two West Texas superintendents find their districts on separate ends of the spectrum.
Ector County ISD, or ECISD, has 45 schools, but currently just 30 police officers.
“We will not meet those numbers,” said ECISD Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri.
While every high school and middle school currently has at least one officer, the elementary schools are a different story.
“It’s a significant investment and yet we were only provided $15,000 per school to make that happen, and that $15,000 – for ECISD – is about $650,000, but yet the cost of these additional officers will be well over $4 million for our school district,” said Dr. Muri.
For Dr. Muri, his district faces another issue.
“In addition to the money, it is also finding the personnel,” said Dr. Muri. “For us that’s going to be almost 30 additional officers that we’re going to have to add to our portfolio, and it’s finding those individuals when – currently – the Odessa Police Department has a need for additional officers, the sheriff’s department has a need for additional officers, so we’re not the only ones looking for these individuals. All of the agencies around us have the same need, and so it is developing a pipeline of police officers that can meet these needs for us.”
For Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Superintendent Brent Jaco, his district is positioned well.
“I am grateful to have a police department – we have our own police department here – and we have enough staff that we are going to be able to put one of our law enforcement officers on each campus, and so we’ll be able to meet the requirements of each campus,” said Jaco.
Although grateful, Jaco sympathizes with other school districts.
“I know every superintendent that I work with, that I’m friends with — across the State of Texas – is working hard to keep their students safe and that’s our top priority everywhere we go, but money is needed to make some of these changes and decisions,” said Jaco.
As September 1st nears, additional school safety needs additional funding.
“I think that the opportunity that we have moving forward is to make sure that we fund the safety requirements that have been added to the schools,” said Dr. Muri. “I agree with the new laws that were created – I think they make sense and will certainly provide an additional layer – but we’ve got to have the dollars to help us do that work effectively in each of our schools.”
Dr. Muri mentioned that on September 1st they will let the state know that they could not be in compliance, and from there they will work with the state on how to move forward. A Midland ISD representative shared that they are actively working to expand their police department in order to arm their elementary schools and meet the state requirements.