Goose Creek CISD officials say safety is a high priority as the school year is set to begin.
School safety has been such a huge issue, even one of the bills passed during the last Texas Legislative session revolved around the topic. Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 11 in June. The bill instructs schools to implement a “multi-hazard emergency operations plan” and requires training for school resource officers, ensures district employees (as well as substitutes) are trained for emergencies, and establishes threat assessment teams to identify potentially dangerous students and how to intervene before they become violent. Abbott had convened with lawmakers after the May 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School, where 10 people were killed, and another 13 were wounded to address the issue.
GCCISD District officials say they have made every attempt to stay ahead of these state requirements.
“We have had a multi-hazard emergency operations plan in place for several years,” said Susan Passmore, GCCISD spokeswoman. “This plan allows the district to be prepared for all type of emergencies, such as dangers outside the buildings, threats inside the buildings, evacuation procedures, inclement weather, and Hazmat situations.”
Passmore said all Goose Creek faculty, staff, and students, as well as substitute teachers, continue to be trained each year. Each campus also has a Threat Assessment Team in place. The team is composed of school administration officials from the campus and the district, law enforcement officials, campus and district counselors, and mental health specialists.
The district has taken steps in the past to ensure students, faculty and administrators can go to Goose Creek schools and feel safe. Thanks to the passing of the 2013 $267.54 million bond, the district was able to implement many new security measures.
Dr. Anthony Price, GCCISD deputy superintendent, said each campus now has security vestibules with bullet-resistant glass, security fencing and gates, security hardware and card access, security cameras, security locks for classroom doors as well as many technology upgrades.
“The bond funds of 2013 have indeed strengthened our safety and security infrastructure and have assisted GCCISD in becoming one of the safest districts in the state,” Price said.
Superintendent Randal O’Brien said both the 2013 and 2019 bonds, which passed in May, have elements to make the district safer.
“The 2019 bond and capital projects focus serves to follow up with any measures not completed in the prior bond or have been identified as deficient safety measures, ranging from fence reconfigurations, driveways, bus camera systems and GPS tracking programs and additional security cameras, officer patrol vehicles, including increased staffing and canine officers to provide a safe a secure environment for all students, staff and guests,” O’Brien said.
Price had traveled to meet with other school districts that experienced shootings. This included Sandy Hook Elementary and Columbine High School in Colorado. Price also met with officials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida as well as Santa Fe High School.
From these travels, Price learned valuable information that can be applied to Goose Creek schools and administration buildings.
Some of the things Price learned during the exchanges include response times.
“How can we improve on this,” Price said. “We have officers (both police and security) on all our secondary campuses. We have police patrols that rotate throughout the district, including all elementary campuses.”
They also shared on how to slow down an intruder and talked about the value of building a rapport with other emergency entities.
“We work well with the City of Baytown, Harris County, (Harris County Department of Education), the sheriff department and other local entities,” Price said. “GCCISD offers yearly training drills, which includes law enforcement, fire and rescue, and other emergency services personnel.”
O’Brien said parents should feel safer knowing they have made strides in keeping everyone safe at the district.
“The 2019 school year is kicking off with the theme, ‘Here, We Grow Giants,’ and we believe that one of the first elements to doing so is to ensure that both parents, students and staff all feel safe in the campus environment,” O’Brien said. “The second element to providing the best education possible to the families of this community is to ensure rigorous academic instruction, with highly qualified teachers who set high expectations for themselves and their students creating a culture of engagement.”
O’Brien said the district’s administrative team has worked alongside its police force to provide staff development about crisis management plans.
“I believe we are better prepared than ever before for all situations,” O’Brien said. “Research says that having better facilities improve safety, but also increases student learning and performance. We are blessed to have the support from our community members who voted for our bond elections and for them finding ways to connect with our day-to-day operations as well through the many volunteer opportunities as well as the steering committees that are formed throughout each school year.”