ARLINGTON, Texas — In the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting, schools across Texas have held active shooter drills, checked and re-checked security systems and protocols. And, in Arlington, an extra layer of potential peace of mind is ready for the next school year, too.
"So, this is one of those natural evolutions. We saw a communication gap," said Arlington ISD Superintendent Dr. Marcelo Cavazos.
Right now, text message alerts only go to people who sign up for them. Phone lines at schools can get overloaded or cut off during lockdowns. And, Cavazos says, parents seeking information on school emergencies are often inundated with inaccurate social media posts.
So now in Arlington, starting this school year, a security tracker on the ISD safety website will carry every update the school district can get during a lockdown or other emergency.
"So, what we did is consolidate that and made it seamless and more in real-time for everybody," Cavazos said. "That allows us to post information as it's happening so that everyone has the information that they need. And really allows people to understand the action that they are to take when we have such emergencies."
The website also has a list of potential school emergencies like lockdowns and weather events and tells parents in advance what school district responses to expect.
And, in a 22-minute newscast-style YouTube video linked on the website, school administrators and security staff answer the most frequently asked questions by students, teachers, and parents, in a segment called Tough Talk on School Safety: an attempt to offer more info and reassurances for those worried about a post-Uvalde school year.
"And there's a variety of emotions, absolutely. And it does feel different because there's a heightened awareness," Cavazos said of the return to school on Aug. 15. "But yes, that's always in the back of your mind, safety and security."
"The best time to prepare for an emergency is when there is no emergency," he said.
In other Arlington ISD developments, Cavazos also said that universal pre-K for any and all Arlington 4-year-olds is available for the first time this school year.