SAN ANTONIO – Who will my teachers be? Will I have friends in my class? What should I wear on the first day of school?
Those are the same questions that students have been asking for decades.
Unfortunately, due to recent circumstances, questions that students and parents are asking ahead of this school year have a far more serious tone.
The majority of the questions we received were about school safety.
So with that in mind, we asked the three largest school districts in the San Antonio area if they’ve made any changes ahead of the school year and what their plans are for keeping kids safe.
North East ISD
“North East ISD’s top priority is the safety and security of all students and staff,” district spokesperson Aubrey Chancellor said.
Chancellor said the district has made many safety improvements in recent years with measures in place that are both visible and discrete — that they wouldn’t want to advertise for “obvious reasons.”
The district keeps the exterior doors on all campuses locked at all times and schools operate on a “buzz-in” system with doors that can only be accessed with keycards. Schools have enhanced security cameras and installed perimeter fencing in recent years in addition to tightening visitor protocols.
NEISD has added mental health police officers and contracted with a third-party company to monitor social media for any concerning posts.
“This summer we have added personnel to our safety team and plan to hire another individual to focus on campus safety and behavior threat assessments. We have also completed a comprehensive exterior door audit and will continue to do that on a regular basis,” Chancellor said. “As many protocols as we have in place, we know the key is that every person ensure those protocols are being followed. This is a major topic of discussion with school leaders. We will continue to emphasize to employees the importance of regularly reviewing the campus crisis and incident response plan. We will also emphasize that staff be familiar with steps that must be taken during emergencies.”
The district has 70 sworn officers (when fully staffed), including two K-9 units, two detectives and a forensic investigator.
“NEISD is the only school district in San Antonio with an officer assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force,” Chancellor said.
Each high school and middle school campus has an assigned officer while other officers patrol the elementary schools.
Chancellor said NEISD also wants to remind community members that they play an important part in school safety.
“It takes everyone in our school community – parents, staff, students, community members – to report concerning behaviors, social media posts or text messages,” Chancellor said.
NEISD has an online tipline where people can submit information about crimes, threats or bullying.
“Rather than doing many things differently, the district is beginning with a strong foundation of effective protocols and procedures already in place,” said NISD spokesperson Barry Perez.
Perez said there are some things that will be different at the district and campus levels this year.
“At the district level, for example, we have inspected multiple safety aspects at each of our campuses, to include: lighting, PA and intercom systems, campus Knox Box systems, and all interior and exterior doors at every school,” Perez said. “As of late last week, we had inspected over 20,000 doors at 102 campuses to ensure both the door and hardware were functioning and securing appropriately. The rest will be completed before the start of our school year. Our campuses will also be communicating changes to some of their local protocols and procedures - access to buildings by parents and visitors, for example, may look different this year. Again, this will be communicated to families at the campus level.”
San Antonio ISD
SAISD officials called the district’s safety and security plan “robust” and said procedures are continually renewed and practiced.
“We have a Campus Safety Committee tailored for each school, and also a district-wide Safety and Security Committee to help guide our safety measures,” said SAISD spokesperson Laura Short.
Each campus will practice at least one lockdown drill each school year, appropriate to students’ ages.
“We keep our exterior doors and gates secured at all times, and visitors must be buzzed in within full view of front office staff before entry,” Short said. “Visitors enter through a secure area and are electronically checked in to ensure that only the most relevant people are on our campuses. Additionally, our front office staff have access to a push-button emergency notification system that immediately notifies our police department if assistance is needed. And video cameras are placed around our campus so that any unusual activity can be detected and recorded.”
The district has officers assigned to all secondary schools — two officers at every high school and one at every middle school. Campuses with younger children will be covered by the district’s patrol division and nearby campus officers.
“We have a strong district police department, and 10 of our SAISD police officers are ALERRT-certified instructors,” Short said. “These ALERRT-certified officers in our police department train our other police personnel yearly. For approximately 20 years, our department has trained using ALERRT concepts and techniques for officer readiness.”
Short said SAISD police operate under a unified procedure with other agencies to coordinate law enforcement and first responder efforts.
South San Antonio ISD
District spokesperson Alexis Castillo said the district has implemented new procedures for campus safety.
They include additional training, additional fencing, and limited access points to parking lots.
“All classrooms and exterior doors will continue to be locked,” she said.