Since the district's Tax Ratification Election failed, MISD allotted $1 million of the $106 million budget in safety improvements, including assigning Montgomery County Precinct 5 constables at each campus.
MISD Director of Transportation Tim Owen said Homeland Security partnered with MISD in 2017 to give safety and security training designed for school transportation departments. The three-tiered course provides emergency planning for transportation operations and bus drivers during school threats, and the transportation department as well as the constables had follow-up training with Homeland Security on Oct. 22, he said.
“School district transportation departments have always focused on safety, but now we bring another aspect of security. Both of these go hand-in-hand," said Martin Zelezinski, transportation security administration inspector for Homeland Security, in an Oct. 22 press release. "Magnolia ISD was the first school district across the U.S. to pilot this program. Now the program has rolled out across the nation and we are getting districts calling us to learn more about the free training."
Bus drivers were already required to do pre-route and post-route bus inspections for safety threats, so Homeland Security employees hid backpacks in 20 buses to see how thorough the driver's inspections were. In Dec. 2017, they found 80 percent of the backpacks. In Feb. 2018, following the second tier of the program, they found 100 percent.
The district operates 148 buses and transports approximately 8,000 students, according to a press release.
MISD also completed the interactive safety training with ARC at the end of September. Jeff Hine, vice president of training at ARC, led the training session. Hine has worked as a secret service agent for President Ronald Reagan and as a customs special agent, as well as for the SWAT team and Homeland Security.
"He was doing these active-shooter trainings for the Department of Homeland Security and he realized that there were other groups that could really benefit from that type of training," MISD Director of Communications Denise Meyers said in an interview. "It is all scenario-based. He would be giving his presentation about what to do if there's a gunshot and all of a sudden, a blank gunshot would go off outside the room. He had just told them what to do, and now they have to put it into action."
Meyers said the staff had positive feedback and feel more prepared in case a safety threat was to happen in their school.
"[They said] it was more than just going through a PowerPoint and learning what needs to be done. It was actually going through the motions and hearing the sounds. So for them to hear that and know what that sounds like now, one teacher said it was very jarring but effective," Meyers said.
MISD will host a parent safety information session Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Magnolia Event Center to give parents information about these safety trainings and what to expect from the district in the case of a safety threat.