AUSTIN (KXAN) — When students walk into the first day of school at Austin Independent School District on Aug. 20, they’ll be walking into buildings that the district leaders hope are more secure than before.
AISD Police Chief Ashley Gonzalez has seen a lot in nearly 30 years in policing, but today’s different.
“It’s changed dramatically. I think it’s signs of the times. The incidents that we have had across the nation,” Gonzalez said referring to school shootings.
The district’s police department will bring on six more officers, including one dedicated to mental health issues. While those six have not been hired yet, Gonzalez hopes to train and deploy them by the end of the fall semester.
“All our officers are trained in crisis intervention and crisis response and mental health,” Gonzalez explained.
He’s also implemented one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s safety recommendations following the Santa Fe shooting. A standardized protocol with other law enforcement agencies called “I Love You Guys,” which will be used as a blueprint for how his department will respond.
“In the event of certain scenarios, this is how you respond. It will cover situations when the school has to go into lockdown or lockout,” said Gonzalez.
The district also upgraded its new Raptor system that checks visitors in and out of schools. Now, visitors have to show their identification every time they enter.
Something that will not change at AISD is the amount of metal detectors. Earlier this week, the Select Texas Senate Committee came out with recommendations for lawmakers and for schools. One of them was adding metal detectors; lawmakers could even pay for them when they return for the next legislative session.
KXAN checked with districts around the area and Round Rock ISD says it has no plans to install them but they have a video-intercom system. Eanes ISD has a similar system. San Marcos CISD, Georgetown ISD and Lake Travis ISD will not have metal detectors either. Hays CISD says it has not ruled them out for the future. Leander ISD says it will possibly look at them for the next school year.
AISD is continuing its focus on school bus safety. Last school year, 16,000 people were cited for driving past school buses when their stop-arms were out. That brings the total up to more than 36,000 tickets since AISD began the program a few years ago.
Kris Hafezizadeh is the director of transportation and vehicle services for the district. He says all buses have lap belts, but now, nearly half have shoulder belts like the front seat of your car.
“Starting six years ago we purchased our new buses with three point belts,” said Hafezizadeh, Within the next five [to six] years, I would say all of them will have it.
“When the student has their seatbelts on, then they aren’t standing, they aren’t turning around. They’re sitting properly in the bus and the driver can pay more attention to the road,” Hafezizadeh said.
All of the special needs buses and nearly half of the district’s large buses have air conditioning. All of the buses have security cameras and live GPD trackers.