Rural school districts face tough decisions when adding safety measures

State & Regional

GRANGER, Texas — Some rural schools say adding security measures for safety can sometimes mean sacrificing something else that’s also important for students. 

Leaders at Granger Independent School District have had to make tough decisions as they look to improve safety mechanisms for their campus building, which was built in the 1920s. 

“We’re fighting for funding for educational purposes,” board member Scott Murrah said. “Now we have to redirect some of that towards additional safety features.” 

Teachers took part in an active shooter training on Friday, learning about several ways to stay proactive and ahead in the event of an emergency.  

“In the past, all of the emergency training was for tornadoes or inclement weather,” Murrah said. “Well, this is a whole different process.” 

The district recently added a new school resource officer. It has also paid to install an additional set of doors in the main entryway, as well as the entrance to the cafeteria. 

Superintendent Randy Willis says teachers will be swiping their badges on a new keypad to enter the building. With the ongoing conversations about how schools across Texas can update their infrastructure to meet security needs, he says he feels like rural schools are left out of the mix when federal and state officials discuss grant options. 

“When you’re a small staff like mine, where I have two principals and I have two people in central administration that help me with counseling, our accountability and our testing, that’s what we have,” he said. “So when you have to write a grant and that grant application and you have to put all this stuff in to write that grant, it takes time and it takes expertise.” 

Brandon Schaefer, self-defense academy program coordinator and lead instructor from the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, led the active shooter training at Granger ISD, urging teachers to keep everyone accountable with the school’s new policy where badges must always be displayed. 

“Give them a reminder – hey badge, badge,” he said. “Be that person. If you see someone that’s not a staff member here, even if it’s a parent, be that person who’s going to stand out and say ‘badge.’” 

Tracy Terry, who teaches English and language arts to sixth, seventh and eighth graders, says students have shown their willingness to protect one another during different emergency drills. She expects students to respond well to the new rules and channels in place. 

“It shows not only professionalism, but it also shows kids that they’re in a safe place – that there is another level of protection between them and just the general public,” she said. “It forces people to go through the appropriate channels in order to get checked out and in order for us to make sure we know who every single person on this campus is.” 

Social studies and health teacher Brock Miller agrees. 

“It’s something you can actually see physically,” he said. “It’s not lip service anymore. It’s actually turned into reality and when they get used to it, it’ll be second nature.” 

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