AUSTIN, Texas — Many students across Central Texas have just one week left until they go back to school.
Austin ISD and the City of Austin hosted a “Back-to-School Bash" on Saturday.
The event featured school supplies, free haircuts, dental kits, eye exams, COVID-19 vaccinations, door prizes and on-site enrollment. Leaders also provided an update on school security changes.
School leaders say safety and security are their priorities for the upcoming school year, and they have a plan to keep the AISD community safe. Throughout the summer, school security staff have tapped into $20 million worth of funding from the 2017 bond program to replace security systems, including security cameras. That project is nearly finished.
Another $30 million is also being set aside for additional security enhancement, like vestibules. Those checkpoints are helping security staff get a better idea of how people access AISD buildings.
Staff have also been carrying out school safety audits.
"We have been doing exterior door audits at every campus in the district and all of our central office buildings to ensure those things exist, that we have safety features on those doors – that they lock and close by themselves," said Dr. Jacob Reach, chief officer of government relations and board services. "No one has to shut it close, and when we find those issues that need help, we've been working to address those to get those fixed before the students arrive."
AISD leaders say school staff is being trained on updated emergency protocols. A specific plan for each campus has been created.
The district is making this information available to substitute teachers and parent volunteers, as well as school staff.
Mental health is also near the top of the list as students return to the classroom. AISD leaders say counselors are ready to work with students and staff to help identify concerning behavior.
"Our campuses have professional school counselors who are being trained and are ready to accept each and every student to connect with them," said Dr. Twyla Williams, director of counseling crisis and mental health. "We want to see if there are any early warning signs and, more importantly, we want to ensure our students feel safe when they walk through the door."
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