AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, Amarillo ISD is working to be proactive with its safety response measures, including practicing emergency response drills to start the summer.
“Many of us spent the first day of summer preparing for something we hope we never have to actually use,” said Amarillo ISD Superintendent, Doug Loomis, in a video by the district this week. “But we’ve practiced and tested our response systems in the event of a large-scale emergency. The drill was planned long before the tragedy in Uvalde but the timing certainly didn’t go unnoticed.”
Loomis said on Tuesday, they worked to make sure everyone understands their roles and had an opportunity to practice them.
“We try to be proactive and prioritize safety year-round, even when there isn’t a tragedy to prompt us to do so,” said Loomis. “To start, we consult with school experts to test security in and around our campuses and determine ways to strengthen it.”
He said AISD is continually evaluating its safeguards and following the industry’s best practices.
“We conduct drills like the one I just mentioned, and we recently purchased and now employ the use of a technology-based Emergency Management System.”
While some safeguards are not obvious by design, Loomis said AISD has layers of security at all times.
“We’ve created our own police department to help us have a consistent and constant focus on security and we work in tandem with the Amarillo Police Department, as well as other local and state agencies to provide careful vigilance at all our schools,” said Loomis.
He continued, “You may have noticed the perimeter fencing going up at our high schools over the last few years. Sure, fencing isn’t a guaranteed prevention method but it is another layer of security that experts recommend to reduce or delay an intruder coming onto our campus undetected.”
Loomis said experts tell AISD that multiple layers, both seen and unseen, are key to building stronger and safer environments. For that reason, he said the district has spent millions in the past couple of years on improving school safety.
But the district is not stopping there. They also want to prevent incidents at schools.
“So physical security is important but we know when it comes to prevention, we need systems in place to first identify and then help those who are showing signs of mental crisis,” Loomis added. “To do that, we’ve invested in mental health awareness training for our staff and added resources available free to our students to support those who are struggling.”
AISD’s Communications Director, Holly Shelton, encouraged parents to talk to their kids about taking school safety measures.
“Remind them that if they see something, whatever it may be, tell a parent or an adult at their school right away,” said Shelton.
As the new school year starts in August, Shelton said parents will be given opportunities to make sure AISD can reach them if necessary.
“It’s important that you opt-in to emergency notifications, including text and email, and always update your emergency contact information with your child’s school,” she said. “If there’s ever an emergency, we will try to contact you first before we share information any other way because parents are our top priority.”