It was a year ago when the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut rocked this nation to the core. Texas Panhandle school districts sprang into action, making school safety a top priority. A year later, they haven't wavered in that mission. In part one of a special report, Pronews 7 follows up with those districts to see what they've done over the past year to make our schools safer.
Walking into a school nowadays is a different experience. Gone are the days of come and go. At Canyon High School you have to buzz the office through an intercom system to be granted access to go inside, a big change from a year ago.
"We wanted to create a culture of safety where we are always evaluating, always considering things that we might need to do better. Number one on our list was the addition of two police liaison officers one on each each of the district. The second major one is we installed electronic access on each of our campuses. And then from that point we really just enhanced our security cameras and our security systems and communication systems," said Canyon Independent School District Director of Administrative Services, Caleb McClure.
Installing those electronic intercom systems at all Canyon ISD campuses also enforced all doors to be locked so no one could enter without going through the front doors. Both Amarillo and Canyon police serve as liaison officers.
"They provide a connection to the police. They are a presence on our campus, they give us advice, they help us in situations where we need a police officer which hopefully not often. But they're there to help us make decisions in terms of what's best in terms of safety on our campus," said McClure.
To practice those safety measures in place, the district has regular lockdown drills at all their schools in case of an active shooter on campus. But are these security measurements working? Pronews 7's Lindsey Stiner was unable to travel to every school in the district, but did test the doors at Canyon High School to see if all were locked. She found that to be true. Liaison officers said they make sure their presence is known to any would be shooters by keeping their patrol cars sitting in front of the schools.
But that's not all. Randall County Sheriff's Office Spokesman Danny Alexander says their department also trains in case of an active school shooter. The district said they've been getting positive feedback from worried parents.
"We've had nothing but positive feedback. Obviously, whenever it becomes a little more difficult to access a campus some people may be concerned about that. But we haven't heard that. All we've heard is that they appreciate it and that they want us to do whatever is necessary to make sure that our students are safe," said McClure.
For smaller school districts like Shamrock Independent School District, they don't have the financial resources to bring in officers. So in July their school board voted to arm their teachers with guns following extensive training. Signs warning those who may trespass to do harm are posted outside their school. While Superintendent Wes Beck declined to give an on camera interview he did say on the phone they've received positive feedback from the community and have had no problem enforcing it.
Pronews 7 wants to open up a discussion among parents on school safety. So we are asking you to go to our Pronews 7 FB page by clicking here, and answering the question posted. What security measures would you like to see enforced at your child's school?
Don't forget to come back Monday and Tuesday night for follow-up reports from other school districts.