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Central Texas parents raising concerns about school portables and safety

Portables are a common solution for school districts to deal with growth or construction, but after the Uvalde shooting, parents are asking if they're really safe.

ROUND ROCK, Texas — Temporary buildings are creating safety concerns for Round Rock ISD students, parents and teachers.

At a school board meeting on July 28, they expressed the issue to trustees. A student said that "with portable schools, we're easily exposed to various amounts of situations." 

One parent said they're not safe. 

"They'd be a little bit safer in a brick-and-mortar building," the parent told board members. 

"How do I protect my students when the only thing between them and a potential shooter is me and a thin wall on my portable," one teacher at the meeting said. 

Round Rock ISD's Early College High School is made up of portable classrooms.

"Every single one of those kids are vulnerable," Mariano Gomez, a parent of twin students at ECHS, said. "When you look at an incident like Uvalde, if that attacker had, and this is just my assessment, if he had attacked a group of students in portables, it would have done much more extensive damage."

Jenny Lacoste Caputo with Round Rock ISD said those buildings are a temporary solution because the district doesn't have money to build a campus for ECHS.

"We have heard some concerns, more weather-related I would say, but also safety certainly and the tragedy in Uvalde has has sparked that again," Caputo said.

Portables are a common solution for Central Texas school districts to deal with growth and construction. However, it raises the question: Are portables safe?

"It's certainly very challenging from a tactical perspective when you start looking at attacks in confined spaces, for example, a school portable or in a classroom where you only have one point of entry," Fred Burton, a safety expert and former counter-terrorism special agent, said.

"You could penetrate the exterior of that with a gun, which is pretty frightening when you start thinking about it. Therefore, that's why other measures come into play," Burton said.

The Round Rock ISD portables automatically lock when closed, and there are panic buttons inside. Round Rock, Austin and Liberty Hill ISDs all plan to add fencing around portables.

While all of that is meant to make schools safer, parents like Gomez want districts to move away from those structures.

"There are just too many portables, and every school that we've gone to, they've been everywhere. And for specific small activities, I could understand it, but not as permanent classrooms as we see on many other campuses," Gomez said.

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