AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dozens of parents attended a safety and security forum Wednesday night in the cafeteria at Westwood High School.
“Kids have to face things that we never had to think about, said parent of two, Kellyn Bradford. “[We] never did lockdown drills, so that as a parent is hard to reconcile, but I think it’s just part of their life now, unfortunately.”
This forum comes two weeks after the Flordia shooting that killed 17 people. And, although Tracy Armstrong’s twins will be seniors at Westwood High next year and soon finish their academic careers she has concerns when it comes to the school’s safety.
“How do you realistically provide a secure environment that these kids need?” asked Armstrong.
Westwood High School Principal Mario Acosta says the forum is just the beginning of their goal to beef up security across campus.
“[Tonight is] way more of brainstorm session than anything else,” he said, adding it gives him an opportunity to share with parents what they’ve come up with. “What procedures we already have in place [and] some things we’ve learned over the last two weeks that we maybe want to tweak or strengthen.”
Since the Florida shooting, the school has added more security cameras and they are limiting the number of time doors are left unlocked. “One of the issues we have at Westwood is we have portable buildings outside,” explains Acosta. “So we have doors that are open at different times of the day.”
The school has also trained staff on how to decide when to let someone in the building. “For instance, if a student is outside knocking on the door or somebody’s outside, are you OK to let them in or not let them in,” explains Acosta.
Moving forward they plan to keep doors locked at all times but in order to do that they will implement key cards for both teachers and students to be able to get in. He adds they also want to have the ability to lock classroom doors from the inside, adjust the way the security system alerts the campus and train substitute teachers.
But Principal Acosta knows there’s still a lot of work to be done and they don’t have all the answers, so they’re asking the community for suggestions. Parents appreciate that effort.
“Each parent comes at it from a different perspective and each child has been impacted by the shootings in a different way,” said Armstrong.
“I don’t know what the answer is, but I think talking about it is at least a step,” said parent and teacher Sarah Day.The school is also taking suggestions from the community. Acosta says they would like to put up blinds on the large door windows and start putting together first-aid kits for every classroom and ask the community for help on these projects.
The meeting lasted a little more than an hour and Acosta says he was just glad to get the conversation going.
However, the Williamson County sheriff expressed some concerns via social media about not getting invited to this security forum given they provide school resource officers for the school. However, Acosta says it was a public forum and everyone was invited. School officials also plan to train with the sheriff’s office and EMS after spring break.
They’ll start using the key cards in a few days, so training is expected to start soon.
Acosta says he will let the community know when they decide to meet again.