Since the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, school districts across the country are focusing on security. The Austin Independent School District is asking its voters whether it can use some of its $892 million proposed bond package to improve school security.
At $233 million, Proposition Two is the largest of the propositions in the bond package. $23 million of those funds would go toward a variety of security improvements district wide. The largest would be to replace the district’s 20 year-old radio system.
“It’s kind of the system that we all stay in touch with one another on," says Paul Turner, executive director of facilities at AISD. “An office may be called here to let you know if someone in the neighborhood that’s running around with a gun, which triggers all the emergency actions set up for that. Those are really important systems to make sure that we have instantaneous communication among everyone.”
Turner says the money would also go toward new fire alarm systems for students with hearing disabilities, smoke detectors and security cameras and alarm systems for all AISD campuses.
Turner adds that some of the security improvements in the bond are a result of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last year.
“There are a number of camera and buzzer systems on front doors that we did not that we are installing as a result of that," he said.
At a community presentation last week, Scott Rouse with AISD also said the district plans to place security cameras on the second floor of multiple story buildings.
“We didn’t concentrate on second floor level for [the] obvious reasons they weren’t coming in off the roof,” Rouse said. “But due to recent events if someone were to get into building and we were trying to find them if they were to get upstairs we wouldn’t have the means to put a camera on them."
Since December, the district has performed random intruder assessment checks at Murchison Middle School. AISD officials would come to the school unannounced.
“They didn’t have badges and she would see how many areas of building she could access," Murchison principal Sammi Harrison said.
While the school district says it’s doing everything it can to prevent horrific incidents like the shooting in Connecticut, much of Proposition 2 would upgrade security to prevent things like break-ins.
Harrison with Murchison Middle School says her school already has intrusion alarm systems in place.
“Five cellos were taken and those are about $1,200 dollars a piece. Luckily, the officer was able to get here quickly and found them stashed in a park," Harrison said.
Parents also agree security is important – but to an extent.
“There are some things that can happen in schools that no one can foresee, and difficult to try to defend against without making your school into a fortress. And I don’t want to see that happen with our schools," Mills Elementary school parent Cindy Schaufenbuel said.
Proposition 2 would also go to relieving overcrowding in some schools. The special election is May 11. Early voting starts Monday.