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AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Tuesday night, the Austin Independent School District board discussed details of what could be the biggest bond proposal it has ever put before voters.
In 2017, voters approved a billion-dollar bond to upgrade Austin schools. At the time, that was biggest bond the school district asked voters to approve. This time, the 2022 bond proposal would ask voters in November to approve $1.5 billion to help secure schools.
Matias Segura, AISD’s chief of operations, said the $1.5 billion request would not increase the tax rate.
“I want our community to know at the end of the day, we are doing our absolute best we can with the limited resources we have,” said Segura.
The district is taking steps now to implement what security upgrades it can afford, including bullet resistant film on school windows to be completed by August.
“It provides an additional layer of protection. For security, we can’t communicate where it is, but it is something that has been going on for some time,” said Segura.
There are unannounced security audits at every AISD school during the school year.
“They occur continually through the entire school year. Our schools are not aware when they occur. It’s a collaboration between emergency management and the police department.”
The district said it is doing what it can with what money it has, but it may not be enough.
“Every new facility we design meets our security specification that we want to see moving on. Not that our schools aren’t secure, but that’s really where we want to be,” said Segura. “Since those specifications have been brought forward, we have completed 17 schools out of the 130. So, I would say 80% of our facilities would benefit from capital investment that would move them where we want them to be from a security perspective.”
One layer of security Segura would like to see, “at minimum security vestibules at every school.”
A security vestibule is a secure space at the front of campus with two sets of doors, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars per school.
“We don’t have unlimited resources; if we did we’d do a lot more,” said Segura.
The 2022 bond could also address another problem at Austin schools: door locks.
“One challenge we have right now — we don’t have consistency in locking mechanisms. Cause when you think about it, you have essentially 70 years of different locks and keys. Standardizing that is actually one of the things we are looking to do in the 2022 bond program.”
Door locks have been a security issue emerging from the investigation into the Uvalde shooting.
Segura said the district can’t afford the security upgrades if the bond doesn’t pass, but failing students and staff is not an option.
“It’s hard work, but we care very much about our students and teachers.”