Conversations about school emergencies, and in particular school shootings, are not easy. While I do not enjoy these discussions, unfortunately, they are necessary. My hope is none of us will ever experience such a tragedy in our schools but it is our duty to be prepared.
For the last year, Eanes ISD staff has been reviewing all of our emergency procedures. Simultaneously, after the tragic school shootings last Spring, law enforcement agencies throughout the area have come together to adopt a standard response protocol so that, in the unlikely event of any type of emergency, we as a community are able to respond as a coordinated team.
Throughout the spring and summer, our administrative staff has worked with emergency responders, including the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and the Westlake Fire Protection District, to review and improve our procedures and protocols for all types of incidents. We have also made 15 specific security upgrades since 2017. More on that in the video link below.
On August 14, Eanes ISD held a critical incident training for every employee group, including teachers, aides, custodians, administrators, bus drivers and food service workers. Also in the audience were representatives from multiple Central Texas school districts and emergency agencies, including Leander ISD, Austin ISD, Del Valle ISD, Hutto ISD, Texas School of the Visually Impaired, Austin Community College, Travis County Office of Emergency Management, the Texas School Safety Center, the Department of Homeland Security as well as multiple police and fire protection districts and partners.
The training began with me providing some context on the need for a calm, reasonable and measured response. Dr. Arnett, our deputy superintendent, along with Jeremy Trimble, our chief operations officer, followed my remarks with some specific safety information. The most in-depth and proactive part of the program prepared us for a school shooting situation, which was led by Deputy Vincent Cain of the Travis County Sheriff’s SWAT detachment. Officer Cain and his colleagues gave a three-hour presentation that was comprehensive, realistic and sobering – the contents of which cannot be fully disclosed due to the confidential nature of our internal security preparations with law enforcement. However, we do want the community to know our staff was trained in great detail, and was able to watch and hear how we would work with law enforcement in the unlikely event of an armed intruder on any of our campuses.
You can listen to some of my opening remarks in the following video excerpt. I should also note we subsequently trained substitute teachers and other auxiliary staff shortly after the August 14 training. Follow-up meetings will occur this fall in smaller groups with all staff in each school.
It is important to recognize that, statistically, schools are some of the safest public spaces where students can spend their day. Nonetheless, as I emphasized in my remarks, our staff has been entrusted to care for the safety of our community’s most treasured possession: our children. We take that responsibility seriously and want you to know we will continue to use best practices and common sense to keep our schools as safe as possible.
Finally, we want the community to be aware that, in the coming weeks, we will explore with our Board of Trustees the potential of a future bond referendum, including many facility enhancements that would improve the safety and security of all Eanes ISD schools. Also, as part of Governor Greg Abbott's safety directive for partnerships between local law enforcement and schools, beginning this fall, DPS troopers will have an increased presence throughout our district. Troopers will perform routine patrols of our campuses, conduct walkthroughs, use our facilities to fill out paperwork, and generally just have a presence.
Thank you for supporting us in our shared commitment to care for your children and our community.