The 2018-19 school year has begun, and several new safety standards and procedures have gone into effect at Italy ISD.
Italy ISD Superintendent Lee Joffre explained an array of programs has better-educated staff on mental health issues, how to prepare for emergencies and implemented the culture of “see it, hear it, report it.”
The Italy ISD staff was also trained in the Standard Response Protocol, developed by the “I Love You Guys” foundation. Information provided by this program will soon be relayed to students during instruction.
On Aug. 29, the students will receive the first portion of training from teachers. This will take place in one of the five safety days scheduled throughout the school year and does not consume the entire school day. The safety aspects will be implemented into instruction, as well.
Joffre encourages all students to discuss school safety with their parents.
“I think it’s important because of any area of academics the parents are important to the students' learning,” Joffre elaborated. “For example, if a student is learning math and re-communicates what they’ve learned with their parents, their parents can reinforce that learning from the teacher.”
This conversation also helps parents know what is going on in the event of an emergency and assures them their child has been adequately trained for emergencies.
More training will transpire throughout the year, and the two campus principals will schedule two reunification drills during the school year. This will include a small portion of parents and students.
“We expect the principals to work with small groups of parents to run a mock reunification using smaller numbers so we can work out details in case we ever need to reunify due to an urgent situation, we would have already have practiced it,” Joffre affirmed.
Joffre explained the reunification procedure does not solely pertain to an active-shooter situation but could be utilized during a gas leak, chemical spills, fuel leak or even a severe electrical outage. This drill will take place at both elementary and high school campuses.
The reunification drill will occur each semester, and the first one will not happen until September or October.
The changes come seven months after Chad Padilla, 16, fired several shots inside of the Italy High School cafeteria before school on Jan. 22, injuring one.
Padilla faces two charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two charges of deadly conduct, one charge of a terroristic threat with bodily injury and one charge of unlawful possession of a firearm. He will also be tried as an adult, per a ruling by Judge Cindy Ermatinger, of the 443rd District Court of Ellis County, on June 5.
A significant advancement in security is the installation of a check-in kiosk, which is located at the entrance of the two campuses. Visitors will check in with their driver’s license before entering the facility. Once a visitor’s pass is printed, a person manning the front desk will electronically grant the guest entry.
A classroom-focused safety precaution includes barricades on doors. In the event of an intruder, each classroom door at both campuses is equipped with Barracuda barricades. Also, the Italy ISD Board of Trustees updated the policy that regards the usage of metal detecting wands. Joffre ensured the wands would be used during a random selection throughout random days. An administrator may choose a particular day to wand random students coming in through the door.
“Our effort is to make sure we are using a random effort to not target any specific students but to make sure all of our students understand that they could be wanded at any time,” Joffre stressed.
A solid, multi-faceted app, Navigate Prepared, will also be incorporated for the first time this year.
The app allows communication between administration and faculty as well as with law enforcement. The app helps account for students electronically and provides 360 video footage for police.
Currently, the details of installation are being worked out, and teachers will be trained within the next few weeks. Law enforcement will be taught next.
Another communication medium installed in each classroom were phones. Before, the teachers' rooms did not have landlines.
In an April Daily Light report, Joffre explained how the “see it, hear it, report it” culture would be implemented through the district. Now, students and parents can anonymously report bullying, suspicious activity or any disturbances through the safety tip line “Speak Up.” A student can simply text or call 469-428-7357 or log onto http://www.italyisd.org/speak.
There are also two panic buttons on each campus. One is explicitly located near the front doors of the school. When the button is pushed, “it immediately notifies the system to set the alarm for the building, and the electronic instructions come out,” Joffre explained.
Along with the several programs and devices implemented to aid school safety, two leaders on the campuses have educated teachers on how to distinguish students with mental illnesses.
These leaders are the two district counselors, longtime Italy ISD employee Maggie Westrick, who offices at the high school and newcomer, Natalie Barrett, who offices at the elementary campus. Together they relayed instruction provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Waco to faculty and staff.
“We had training on that during our professional development week where counselors led us there,” Joffre noted.
The counselors informed the staff of symptoms of mental illness, behavior students might portray when experiencing emotional changes in their life and more.
For more information on the "Step Up" program and a complete list of scheduled safety days, log onto italyisd.org.