Round Rock ISD will use alternative means to meet new safety requirements as it works to staff each of its 55 campuses with armed officers amid a staffing shortage.

What's happening

RRISD Police Department Chief Dennis Weiner and district Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez provided updates to the board of trustees Sept. 21 on their plans to address new safety requirements under House Bill 3. The law went into effect Sept. 1, and mandates that all Texas public and charter schools either staff individual campuses with armed security officers or seek alternative means of satisfying the requirement.

"What we came up with was a best effort to get to compliance within as short a time as possible," Weiner said.

Trustees approved the resolution allowing district staff to seek the exemption at that time.

Some context

Weiner said the district has had ongoing difficulties staffing open positions, including in his department. To immediately comply with the law, the district has put out a request for security services to cover elementary campuses, as its police department has 24 officers.

The good cause exemption allows the district to pursue these alternative means due to a lack of funding as well as personnel. District documents state the cost of adding a total of 44 officers is estimated to be $6.6 million. Dennis Covington, RRISD's chief financial officer, said the first year of the program is funded between a public safety grant and the $15,000 per-campus allocation from the state included in the law. But for the following school years, the plan will come down to budget decisions.

The approach

Weiner said the district will work to staff a total of 54 officers by the 2025-26 school year, with an eventual goal of 68 officers staffed by the following year. In the meantime, the district will prioritize the presence of existing RRISDPD officers on middle and high school campuses, as well as assign groups of elementary schools to officers for coverage. The number of campuses assigned to each officer will be reduced as staffing increases.