Members of the Safe and Secure Schools Committee said they have increased focus on implementing changes based on recommendations made in 2018.

Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Paul Miller and Director of Safe Schools Brian Palazzi presented an update to the board of trustees June 28 from the committee on what changes have been made to Clear Creek ISD schools since 2018. The Safe and Secure Schools Committee conducts and reviews school safety and security audit reports and is guided by the recommendations from the School Safety Committee.

When asked by board member Jeff Larson how the Uvalde shooting impacted the work of the Safe and Secure Schools Committee’s work in recent weeks, Miller said it primarily impacted the fidelity in how the committee applies its safety recommendations. He said the COVID-19 pandemic shifted focus to safely reopening schools and recent events prompted the committee to “refocus and re-engage.”

“Many of [the concerns from the School Safety Committee], there was either not enough funding to do, or they just didn’t make sense at the time, but it may make sense now,” Miller said.

The School Safety Committee’s recommendations included the hardening of facilities, additional security staffing, counseling and support services, safety training and improvements to emergency communications.

Safe and Secure Schools received $8.1 million from a 2017 bond program focused on the “replacement of obsolete existing systems,” according to Miller. An additional $21.3 million was approved by the board of trustees to implement the 2018 recommendations.

The most recent updates to CCISD school safety infrastructure occurred in the 2021-22 school year, where each of the five high school campuses had secured vestibules installed, all classrooms received updated locks that can be locked from both sides, uncontrolled access points were decreased, upgraded cameras were installed and can be accessed by the Safe and Secure department, and panic buttons were added to every phone that immediately trigger a response from an on-site officer.

Since 2018, CCISD added 15 school liaison officers within the district, totaling 41 officers in the district: three at each high school, two at each intermediate school and an intermediate officer staffing elementary schools.

Additionally, the Watch D.O.G.S. program, or “dads of great students,” will return in the 2022-23 school year after being canceled due to COVID-19. This program aims to provide elementary schools in the district with volunteer parents providing additional eyes on campus to assist with safety procedures, according to Palazzi.

According to a video shown by Miller and Palazzi, all officers go through school-based law enforcement active shooter training every summer. Additionally, Palazzi said before school starts in the fall, staff including new and returning substitute teachers, crossing guards, bus drivers and child nutrition staff receive training.

In 2018, 15 counselors were added to the district, including an additional student support counselor at each comprehensive high school, one to each intermediate school and some added to select elementary schools based on student needs, according to the presentation from Miller and Palazzi.

The presentation states that the average number of counselor visits in 2021-22 was 4.2 per student for secondary schools and 4.7 for elementary. This average includes mental health check-ins, which occur during all meetings with counselors, including student support counselors and guidance counselors.

“We feel like the more of our outside resources that we have, the more caring individuals we can get in front of students, the more that we’re gonna be able to meet the needs of our students,” Director of Counseling and Student Services Dava West said in the video presentation.

Safety audits of all CCISD campuses are required every three years. The due date of the next audit is August 2023.

Palazzi said campus reviews are in progress and are slated to be completed mid-July 2022. Intruder audits are conducted during the school year and will begin in fall 2022. The information gathered will be reviewed by the Safe and Secure Schools Committee before submitting to the state in August 2023.