School Safety Design Team works on comprehensive safety plan

The Harlingen CISD School Safety Design Team had its first meeting of the school year in July.

“Design teams are groups of people we bring together that are part of the district including parents, students, and staff members,” Superintendent Dr. Alicia Noyola said. “We bring experts to the table as well. They research and find those best practices for our district.”

During the meeting, Director of Emergency Management and School Safety, Danny Castillo shared the district’s current safety plan with the group and set expectations for the School Safety Design Team.

Dr. Noyola explained the process that the district uses when implementing new security initiatives.

“When we look at safety, and those things that we are going to put into our school district, we look at three things,” Dr. Noyola said. “We look at whether it is research-based, if it is a best practice, and if it fits in our school district and our community. Those are the three things that we use as we think about what we implement in our district.”

Back in 2018, the School Safety Design Team put together a five-year comprehensive plan.

“The last comprehensive school safety plan began in 2018, and we were able to accomplish many goals within four years,” Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Dr. Joseph Villarreal said. It’s time that we review and update our practices utilizing the strategic planning process. The charge we are going to be giving our School Safety Design Team is to develop a new five-year comprehensive safety plan that identifies key measurable goals and specific results that will serve as a guide for school safety.”

The last comprehensive safety plan focused on four key areas: infrastructure, mental health, crisis management, and communication.

“In HCISD, we have a tradition of strategic planning in which we evaluate and access our current systems and structures and make recommendations based on research and input from various stakeholders,” Dr. Villarreal said. “As part of a School Safety Design Team, we will follow these exact same steps to ensure we take the best possible steps to reach our goals.”

Some of the goals accomplished from the previous safety plan included increased fencing around campuses, adoption of the standard response protocol, increased mental health services, access control points at all campuses, and the implementation of the threat assessment process.

The School Safety Design Team will be made up of 24 committee members.

The team will include representatives from Harlingen Police Department, Primera Police Department, Combes Police Department, elementary, middle school, and high school teachers, counselors, principals, and parents. It will also include community members, a member from the city’s Emergency Management Leadership, a member from Region One ESC, a representative from the local juvenile justice system, representatives from a local mental health facility, and high school students. 

The School Safety Design Team will be meeting monthly to discuss and research ways to enhance HCISD’s safety.

“They will also be meeting during their own time, so they can look at some of the projects they are working on whether that includes doing some research or doing some site visits across the Valley or across the State,” Dr. Villarreal said. 

The School Safety Design Team will present highlights of their progress at the Facilities and Safety Committee meetings throughout the school year.

The ultimate goal of the group is to present a comprehensive safety plan at the Facilities and Safety Committee meeting in February.

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