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Neighboring community impacted by Uvalde shooting, focusing now on security, mental health

San Felipe Del Rio CISD leaders said, "We're all as vulnerable."

DEL RIO, Texas — It’s just over an hour-long drive, 70 miles that separates Uvalde from Del Rio.

The distance not separating the border town from the Robb Elementary shooting, many families in Del Rio also impacted by the tragedy.

Dr. Carlos Rios, the Superintendent of San Felipe Del Rio CISD said the unimaginable forced this other border community to realize, they too, could at anytime be at risk.

“I think that everybody realized that their vulnerabilities are everybody's vulnerabilities. And, it's hard,” said Rios.

This summer Rios along with school leaders across the nation are left with less than two months to overcome a major challenge.

“We have to let our families know that safety is our number one priority, and one, make them aware of what we already have in place, and then also make them aware of how we're improving upon what we have in place,” said Rios. “So, it doesn't matter how safe you've been up to this point, you still have to earn their trust.”

Rios said in prior years, the district has invested in top notch security measures for each campus.

“We're lucky that we've invested money in security, whether it be through a single point of entry or the automatic door locks or the different aspects that we have. But, we just don't have enough,” said Rios.

Rios said that reality is forcing leaders to re-think school security.

“As a school system, we often think of our police officers as the ones that control traffic, break up fights and catch drugs, and we now have to think of them as doing all that, but being prepared for the unexpected,” said Rios.

Monday night the SFDR CISD Board of Trustees approved over $500,000 budget item to hire nine additional CISD officers.

“Come August, there will be a uniformed armed police officer at every one of our campuses, including our eight elementary campuses,” said Rios.

Rios said Trustees made it a priority to allocate dollars in the budget next year, but now comes another challenge.

“Any time you add personnel in any department, it's going to be a stress on the budget, but more than a stress on the budget, if you're a rural district, you have to find the personnel,” said Rios.

He said the district will be working to send 10 security personnel employed with the SFDR CISD PD to the police academy to earn their peace officer certification.  He said they are also hoping to recruit retired law enforcement officers in the area to fill the positions.

Rios said the other priority the district is addressing is mental health issues.

The district has been utilizing a state-funded tele-health program called the Texas Child Access Through Telemedicine (TCHATT) and Rios said it has been highly beneficial in serving this rural community where mental health professionals are scarce.

The board also approved the hiring of six new counseling positions to add to the counseling staff at the secondary schools. 

“As we reflect on the tragedy and what we can do to just make sure that that we catch a student before they do the unthinkable, programs like TCHATT and more counselors are essential,” said Rios.

Rios said the other priority district leaders are focusing on in the upcoming weeks: improving campus security.

“I think that every superintendent across the state who thought they had done a lot is thinking ‘we probably haven't done enough,’ and is in the process of evaluating every single piece of security equipment, every single door, everything. And, we're no different. We're in the process of doing the same,” said Rios.

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