BEXAR COUNTY, Texas – The Somerset Independent School District plans to hire four full-time police officers to allow the district's police department to place a uniformed, armed officer on six out of seven campuses.
The hiring will more than double the district’s police force, bringing the total number of full-time officers to seven.
“Every morning driving to work, I say a little prayer. I say, ‘Lord, not today,’” said Somerset ISD Police Chief Rick Valdez, thinking about the series of school shootings across the nation.
Valdez currently splits his time between all the campuses, responding to incidents as needed.
He believes the placing of an officer at each campus during the entire school day will serve as a deterrent to anyone looking to cause harm, and give students, parents and school staff peace of mind.
The Somerset ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the placement of officers at each campus after community conversations following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February and just days before the school shooting in Santa Fe.
“It kinda tears your heart out. It hits close to home,” Valdez said, fighting back tears. “For everybody —anybody that sends their child to school every day.”
The district held a series of community meetings after Dr. Saul Hinojosa, Somerset ISD superintendent, said a school board member felt the district should be doing more to protect students following the Parkland shooting.
“We needed to do more since our schools are somewhat spread out here, and the response time if, God forbid, we had an active shooter situation, it would be several minutes before anybody could actually get to the campus,” Hinojosa said.
Hinojosa said the hiring of the additional officers will cost the district an extra $50,000. That sum will be added to salaries of other positions that are currently vacant.
Hinojosa said three receptionist positions at the schools will be “repurposed,” meaning those receptionists will be moved to vacant teacher’s aide and bus aide positions. In their place, officers will man the front desks of schools, screening visitors, communicating with parents and patrolling the halls.
Starting in August, police officers are expected to be on every district campus except for the Zacharias Early College Leadership Academy, or ZECLA, which has a criminal justice teacher on campus who is also an officer.
“We're going to do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t happen on our campuses,” Valdez said.