As students and staff return for the 2022-23 school year—which begins Aug. 11—Montgomery ISD officials are investing in new safety and security initiatives across the district, including ID badges for students and staff; additional police officers; and a campaign encouraging students and staff to ensure all exterior doors remain locked.

In June, trustees set aside approximately $49,000 to purchase Halo smart sensors for vape detection on high school campuses and adopted its budget June 28, which adds two officers to the MISD police force, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

“The last two budgets we have added police officers. This isn’t a new thing because of what happened in Uvalde; we’ve been adding police officers every year. And now we’re very excited to be able to have a police officer at every campus while still maintaining two police officers at our high schools," Superintendent Heath Morrison said in a late July interview.

The district also is implementing ID badges in the 2022-23 school year that student and staff will wear on campus to help spot unidentified guests more easily on campus. Trustees approved the purchase of badges, totaling $87,566 in startup costs, at a June 28 meeting, according to previous reporting.

Morrison said the ID badges are necessary to maintain campus safety with the growth the district has experienced.

“When people hear that we grew 500 students from the start of last year to the end, you just can’t know every student anymore, immediately," he said in an interview.

In addition, MISD is rolling out a new Campus Parent Safety Committee at each campus, Morrison said. The committees, to be made up of parents, are being formed at each school to give parents the opportunity to give input and suggestions on safety measures and offer real-time suggestions and questions to the principal. These new committees are in addition to the District Safety Security Committee, a committee required by the state that must meet at least four times per year.

Weekly, school police and maintenance staff will also be checking every door throughout the district and making sure any issue becomes a priority for being repaired, Morrison said, in an effort to keep campuses secure.

Along with weekly door sweeps, MISD has also rolled out a campaign for the 2022-23 school year called "Stop the Prop," calling on students and staff to ensure exterior doors throughout campuses are not propped open at anytime, said Justin Marino, assistant superintendent of communications and public relations, in an interview. Stickers will be placed on each exterior door with the "Stop the Prop" language, he said.

“We want to shift our mindset in the district that the exterior doors on our buildings should be closed and locked at all times," Marino said. "The expectation moving forward is that all the doors will be closed and locked even if they’re going out to their vehicle for two minutes to grab their drink.”

The district is also upgrading its platforms for students, staff and the community to submit safety tips.

Morrison said as of late July district officials were in discussion to add a panic alert app that would allow staff to alert campus police, local law enforcement and the superintendent with the tap of a button if there is a potential intruder or a crisis. In addition, Marino said the district's existing Let's Talk tool for community members, staff, parents and students to correspond with the district has been expanded to also allow users to submit a safety tip that will be received immediately by several district administrators.

The district has also added a text feature to the platform this year, allowing students or staff to text a safety tip directly to district administrators, including the chief of police.

About $5.34 million was also set aside in MISD's May 2022 bond package—totaling $326.9 million—for safety and security improvements, such as additional perimeter fencing for campuses, radio systems and security cameras, as well as funds for technology infrastructure upgrades, which will also help improve safety and connectivity throughout campuses in the coming years, Morrison said. As bond projects get underway, Morrison said safety and security continue to be a priority.

“As we build Elementary No. 7, it will be built with all the things—the sensor detectors, the secure vestibule, the perimeter fencing [and] cameras," he said.