In the aftermath of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Cy-Fair ISD Police Department Chief Eric Mendez updated the board of trustees on the district’s safety and security measures at a March 5 meeting.
“Our police department does active shooter training,” he said. “I know that’s a question that comes up across many different avenues. People are concerned. Parents have reached out after the Florida incident to me and to [Superintendent Mark] Henry wanting to know how we train or if we’re prepared, and the answer is yes.”
Training programs include the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training and the Exterior Response to Active Shooter Events—both of which address tactics to handle active shooting scenarios. The department also participates in Crisis Intervention Training, where officers learn to identify signs of students in crisis or with mental health issues, Mendez said.
“We not only look at an active shooter and what to do to engage an active shooter, but we also understand that there is a mental health component to understand what our students are going through,” he said.
CFPD has two officers assigned to each high school, one to each middle school and patrol officers monitoring elementary schools throughout the day. Mendez said the department’s average response time to emergency calls is 3.72 minutes, compared to a national average of 6-10 minutes.
Under state law, every public school district is required to have a safety plan in place that covers mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Each CFISD campus has a designated emergency operation representative—usually an assistant principal.
Each campus is responsible for maintaining the campus emergency plan and conducting emergency drills, including fire drills, lockdown drills, shelter-in-place drills, secure-the-building drills, reverse evacuation drills and random metal detector searches, Mendez said.
Ify Ogwumike, assistant superintendent for student services, said the department works to increase safety through initiatives such as the Cy-Fair Tipline.
The Tipline allows students and community members to anonymously share information online or via text message. The district received 787 tips last school year, and there have already been 749 tips this school year.
Other department initiatives include Project Safety bullying and drug prevention lessons, character education programming, Service for Success, Red Ribbon Week, No Place for Hate, Spring Break Tap Camp and student safety surveys.
In addition to the safety initiatives in place, the district dedicated $55.3 million to security upgrades in the 2014 bond package, according to CFISD Chief of Operations Officer Roy Sprague.
“Originally we planned on doing those security upgrades as part of our overall master schedule when we went to each and every campus over a six-year period,” he said. “But after talking with Dr. Henry after we passed the bond, we wanted to… get all the security upgrades done quicker than in 2020.”
Most of the projects laid out in the bond are either complete or expected to be complete by December, he said. Card reader access locks, security access panels, emergency call stations, new radios and new radio communication towers have been upgraded and installed.
Sprague said his team is working to install secure vestibules with bullet-resistant glass at campus entryways with video cameras and buzzer door releases that prompt visitors to check in at the reception desk. This project, as well as the installation of lockdown panic buttons and additional security cameras at each campus, set to be completed by December.
“As part of the scope of the work, we included 10 additional cameras at every elementary school, 20 additional cameras at middle schools and 40 at the high schools,” Sprague said. “Our goal is actually to try to get the majority of this work done by the start of school for the 2018-2019 school year.”