Uvalde students and staff will not return to the campus of Robb Elementary School, where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers May 24, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said in a statement Wednesday.
“We are working through plans on how to serve students on other campuses and will provide that information as soon as it is finalized,” Harrell said in the statement the week after the deadly on-campus shooting. “We are also working with agencies to help us identify improvements on all UCISD campuses.”
Classes at Robb were scheduled to end on May 26, but all district activities were canceled on May 24 in the wake of last week’s shooting.
It wasn’t clear from Harrell’s statement what will happen to the building where 21 people, mostly children, were killed, but Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin has said it should be torn down.
The Uvalde CISD board of trustees meets Friday to discuss “issues related to Robb Elementary” and possibly delegate authority to Harrell to act in place of the school board during an emergency. Many boards gave superintendents similar authority in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, so they could act more quickly in an important moment without needing to wait to call a board meeting.
Harrell said the district will continue to work with law enforcement officials to investigate the fatal shooting.
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott directed Texas State University’s Texas School Safety Center to conduct comprehensive school safety reviews to ensure all public schools follow procedures to maximize school safety.
In a letter to Director Kathy Martinez-Prather, Abbott instructed the research center at Texas State University tasked with studying and training schools on safety measures to make sure all school districts’ safety and security committees meet before the start of the 2022-23 school year to review their emergency plans and address other campus security concerns.
School districts also must ensure their behavioral threat assessment teams are trained and have reviewed procedures for each campus, and that all staff, including substitutes, have been trained in their district and campus safety procedures, according to Abbott’s letter. Lastly, districts must assess access control procedures, such as visitor check-in processes and locked exterior and classroom doors.
School districts must complete these assessments by Sept. 1 and submit their reports to the Texas School Safety Center by Sept. 9. The center will report its findings to Abbott and the state Legislature by Oct. 1, Abbott added.
The Texas School Safety Center also will work with the Texas Education Agency to randomly inspect and assess school districts’ access control measures.
“Among other reviews, your team should begin conducting in-person, unannounced, random intruder detection audits on school districts. Staff should approach campuses to find weak points and how quickly they can penetrate buildings without being stopped,” Abbott’s letter said. “This will improve accountability and ensure school districts are following the plans they create.”
Additionally, Abbott directed the Texas School Safety Center to work with his office and the Legislature on any recommendations to improve security systems and decide how much funding schools need to implement those recommendations.
“This issue will no doubt be at the forefront of the next Legislature session,” Abbott wrote in the letter. “You have my full support to make recommendations for consideration by the Legislature.”
After the Santa Fe High School shooting outside Houston in 2018 — when a 17-year-old junior killed 10 classmates and injured 13 more — the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 11.
The law provided an annual allotment per student for Texas schools to fund school safety, such as training and new equipment. Under the law, school districts must adopt an emergency operations plan that addresses multiple threats and submit this in a safety and security audit to the Texas School Safety Center for review.
The education commissioner was responsible for setting building standards to provide a “safe environment,” and another piece of legislation distributed $100 million in grants for schools to “harden” campuses, meaning make them more difficult targets for people intending violent acts, and other risks.
All district employees must receive emergency training under the law, including substitute teachers.
School districts and public charters also had to create threat assessment teams for each campus, which would identify students who make threats of violence and provide possible interventions for those students.