UVALDE, Texas — As the seven-month mark of the Robb Elementary tragedy approaches, Uvalde school leaders are praising progress in enhancing campus security.
The Uvalde CISD Board of Trustees convened for likely its final meeting of the year Monday, listening to Interim Superintendent Gary Patterson present how nearly $5 million is being used toward various safety upgrades.
Security enhancements include new fencing, gates and replacement doors, among other improvements.
“If the sensors provide a signal, if these doors are supposed to be locked and for any reason they are not locked, then that will send a message to the on-campus monitor,” Patterson said.
Supply chain issues, meanwhile, have stalled the installation of replacement doors at two schools within Uvalde CISD. Delays could last until February or March.
The district is also unable to move forward with constructing security vestibules at the entrances of each school.
“Those bullet-resistant materials are difficult to get right now and that’s why the vestibules have been delayed,” Patterson said.
He also discussed results from the Texas School Safety Center’s (TSSC) intruder detection audit where three Uvalde CISD campuses experienced surprised visits to examine how easy it is to get into the schools.
In the aftermath of the Robb Elementary shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the center to conduct surprise inspections at schools in Uvalde and elsewhere in the state.
Patterson said overall Uvalde CISD did well in keeping doors locked when a state auditor made surprise visits to three campuses, although the auditor did gain access to the cafeteria of one school through a loading dock.
“There were no students in the cafeteria, and he was stopped by staff. That really is 100 (percent) my responsibility to see that didn’t happen,” Patterson said.
The TSSC plans to inspect all school districts in the state and at least 75% of campuses by the end of the year. Its executive director says the board will alert local law enforcement and central administration when it plans to audit a campus, but the school won’t know.
The center was provided a $7 million budget, some of which was used to hire at least five full-time employees to run the program.
Some teacher's associations have criticized the checks, saying that if a person on campus sees them as a real threat the person conducting a check could be put in harm's way, especially on a campus that allows schools employees to carry guns.
The folks conducting these inspections will be wearing plain clothing, and are directed to identify themselves if approached.
Jesse Rizo, uncle of Jackie Cazares, has been fighting for change and accountability since May 24. He said he's pleased with the interim superintendent's job so far, and with the direction the school district is going.
Meanwhile, 21 families will be spending the holidays with a major piece of their hearts missing.
“You look back and you think about the presents that you’ve given a child before and then this year you can’t do that, things that we take for granted," Rizo said. "It is going to be tough."
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