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PHOTO BY RACHEL RICE  Chris Allen, Lake Travis school district deputy superintendent, outlines the district’s plans for security improvements for the 2013-14 school year at a parents meeting March 28 at Hudson Bend Middle School.
PHOTO BY RACHEL RICE

Chris Allen, Lake Travis school district deputy superintendent, outlines the district’s plans for security improvements for the 2013-14 school year at a parents meeting March 28 at Hudson Bend Middle School.

Learning from recent incidents, Lake Travis school district will install 6-foot fencing around playgrounds, upgrade security cameras and improve public address systems and panic lock buttons before the start of the next school year.

Deputy Superintendent Chris Allen, who oversees school security, is detailing these security measures and other steps as he visits each school in the district to discuss emergency training and security equipment with parents.

“This is something I take very seriously as a professional, but it’s also something I take very personally to heart because I have kids in the district,” Allen said at the March 28 meeting at Hudson Bend Middle School.

In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Lake Travis school district focused its efforts on improving school security, an effort further spurred on when Lake Travis Elementary School went into lockdown in response to a report of a gunman outside the adjacent Educational Development Center.

In response, the district added “soft lockdowns” to safety protocol so campuses not under a direct threat may protect students without interrupting classroom instruction.

“We increase the level of security in the building, get kids into classrooms, bring them in from the playground and close the doors and lock them,” Allen explained, “but we don’t turn off lights, and we pretty much go about business as usual.”

In addition to lockdown drills twice a year, the district is implementing measures to make lockdowns easier and more secure. All classrooms have already been issued “go buckets,” to be used in the event of an extended lockdown.

“Imagine you have a student in your classroom, and the school is on lockdown, and that student is diabetic,” Allen said. “The buckets have little things of emergency orange juice, little snacks, things you might need. The bottom is filled with kitty litter because on a four- or five-hour lockdown, there are biological functions that have to be addressed. What we found in January is the buckets are hard to open, so we actually needed to train on how to open them, and we bought bucket openers.”

Allen said Hudson Bend Middle School, which is undergoing construction, will have a safer entryway in the coming school year.

“We want it to be so that when parents come into the building, instead of walking into an open hallway, they walk into a closed area so that you can’t enter the school unless someone pushes a button and releases a locked door to give you access to the building,” Allen said.

Since January, he has overseen the rush-order repair of all broken or malfunctioning locks at district schools. The district is now planning on updating locks at all facilities to keyless entry systems.

“In order to open every single door in a building, you need eight or nine keys,” Allen said. “That’s a problem. Imagine a police officer sweeping a building for a threat, and every time they come to a door they have to fumble through eight keys to get a door unlocked. It’s not a good situation.”

Parent Mari Bacuyag said she was encouraged by the safety measures.

“It looks like they’re being very inclusive – the doors, the fences, the PA system,” she said. “It’s great they’re making it a priority, and they’re doing it on an impressive timeline.”

For information on safety meetings, contact the district’s communications office at 533-6046.

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