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Sabinal ISD superintendent focused on enhancing security after Uvalde mass shooting

From strengthening glass at entryways and classrooms, to rolling out a distress-signal app to staff, the district of 500 students is preparing for the worst.

SABINAL, Texas — The mass shooting in Uvalde two months ago has prompted school districts nationwide to reassess their safety and security measures. Among those districts is only 20 miles away from the Uvalde elementary school.

“We’re only 20 minutes away from Robb Elementary School, and so just the proximity of the tragedy obviously has affected our community and our school,” said Richard Grill, who serves as superintendent of Sabinal Independent School District. He has worked in education for almost 40 years.

Sabinal ISD is home to 500 students, 17% of whom come from Uvalde, according to Grill.

He said the district has been proactive through the years maintaining a safe learning environment with exterior and interior doors keeping locked, blue panic alarms scattered throughout the schools and more than 30 cameras installed to monitor around-the-clock activity.

Grill noted this school year, improvements are being made to harden glass at entryways and classrooms, train students to bail out of classroom windows in the event of an active shooter, and ensure staff have easy-access to alert emergency dispatch through a smart phone app.

Each room is in the process of being labeled alphanumerically from the outside to provide first responders a way to identify critical information.

“So law enforcement will know where room 111 is or room 112 is. They won’t have to be guessing which room the active shooter might be,” Grill said.

Sabinal ISD is also exploring the idea of adopting the Guardian program, where staff would voluntarily train to carry firearms on school grounds and defend against an active shooter until police arrive. There’s also the Marshal program, which requires 80 hours of training to act as armed security in the absence of law enforcement at school.

“We’re educators, not law enforcement officers, so our primary mission is to teach kids and obviously keep them safe, but we’ll evaluate arming personnel sometime this year,” Grill said.

Grill continues to meet with law enforcement, parents and the community overall to come up with ideas on how to enhance safety within Sabinal ISD. But he’s adamant when he believes the state should do more to help schools financially as it relates to security.

“All schools in Texas receive a safety allotment, which is $9.72 per ADA [average daily attendance.] With that in Sabinal, that’s approximately $4,400. We appreciate what’s been funding, but until we protect our schools like we protect the Capitol, I don’t think we’re doing enough as a state.”

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