Waco ISD continues upgrading safety measures with more than $2 million in grant funding
As school districts and families await the outcome of Texas House Bill 2 that would establish and fund two school safety grant programs to help pay for security personnel, protective fencing, metal detectors and mental health prevention, among other school safety measures, Waco ISD is continuing to ensure the safety of students and staff with a $1.5 million dollar grant it was awarded on Nov. 9, 2023.
The district’s latest safety grant comes as a result of the Texas Legislature providing new funding for school safety totaling $1.4 billion for the next two years to address new school safety standards and other facilities-related safety improvements.
Waco ISD used a $658,365 Texas Education Agency grant awarded in June to install and upgrade fencing, door locks, windows with intruder resistant film, and enhance other safety features.
“School safety has always been a priority,” Waco ISD Executive Director for Student Services & District Safety Coordinator Suzanne Hamilton said. “This additional funding allowed us to further enhance safety measures already in place and add to layers of existing security.”
Last Fall, the Texas Legislature announced $400 million in funding to assist school districts in replacing or upgrading doors, windows, fencing, communications, and other safety measures. Waco ISD applied for grant money to ensure the safety of students and staff.
Nearly half of the funding, $317,916, was used to purchase and install fencing specifically at the elementary schools of Cedar Ridge, Mountainview, and Hillcrest. Under the new TEA School Safety Standards, fences must be at least six feet in height with anti-scaling design features or eight feet high. If the fencing is gated, it must be equipped with emergency exits.
The second largest expense was adding security film to windows and glass doors at all Waco ISD schools that did not already have it in place at a cost of $237,951.35. Under the new TEA safety requirements, doors with windows that are located on the ground level of the school or windows that are adjacent to or near a door and are large enough to allow someone to enter if broken must be reinforced with entry resistant film unless they are in a secured area such as behind fencing.
Another $44,000 was spent on entrance doors and nearly $64,000 on exterior doors, which include classroom doors and portable doors. The new school safety standards require doors to remain closed and locked, as well as allow for emergency exit, such as with a crash bar, from the inside while remaining locked.
Waco ISD Chief of Operations and Facilities, Gloria Barrera, said that the maintenance staff has nearly completed installing the safety measures funded by the $658,365 grant and looks forward to completing additional projects with the $1.5 million grant the district just received.
“Our maintenance staff, in partnership with contractors, are on track to have all of the current safety grant-funded improvements completed by the winter break,” Barrera said. “We all understand that this is critical work for our schools and community.”
At the start of the 2023-2024 school year, Waco ISD also received a $47,617 grant earmarked solely for panic alert systems. Under the new law, a school’s panic alert system must allow an alert to be triggered manually by campus staff, automatically with a 911 call, including location of where the alert was triggered, alerts administrators, who can then alert law enforcement, and can simultaneously send an alert to all staff.
Waco ISD Chief Technology Officer, Jerry Allen, applied for each of the grants after continually conducting needs assessments based on changing legislation and the community climate.
“Preventing school violence means addressing the factors that may put our students or staff at risk,” Allen said. “Waco ISD has always been proactive in these areas. But new state safety requirements resulted in increased costs for the school district. Every penny of this grant money ensures school safety remains a top priority in Waco ISD.”