Presidio ISD School Board approves updates to safety procedures

PRESIDIO — At last Wednesday’s meeting, the Presidio ISD School Board approved this year’s update to the Presidio ISD Police Emergency Operations Plan and the Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan. Both measures consider student safety and preparedness from different angles — the former on the campus and district level, and the latter with help from the city’s police department, county sheriff’s office, Border Patrol and other interconnected agencies. 

PISD Police Chief Joel Nuñez attended last week’s meeting to give presentations on both initiatives. First he tackled the district’s Emergency Operations Plan, which is revised and approved by the district every year. He brought a hefty binder with the full plan to demonstrate just how detailed his department’s protocols are. “It’s a living document — it’s always growing and getting thicker,” he said. 

This year’s changes were much more dramatic and detailed than last year’s. Superintendent Ray Vasquez explained that the extra focus on safety this year was in part due to the school shooting in Uvalde earlier this year. “The tragedy in Uvalde has really brought this all up to the surface in Texas,” he said. 

Nuñez reassured everyone that his department had been working hard on these procedures even before the Robb Elementary shooting made headlines. “We’ve always been above and beyond,” he said. The approval of the updates by the district was just a matter of procedure. “We never want to change anything in a document without informing everyone about it.” 

One major change from previous years is that school doors need to remain locked while class is in session, prompting new procedures for when folks enter and exit buildings on each campus. The police department has been double-checking and upgrading locks around the district, as well as beefing up their security camera systems. 

They also fine-tuned the chain of command in case of an emergency — the superintendent serves as incident commander first, but if for some reason the superintendent is not available, the school board president steps in. In the event that both the superintendent and school board president are out of the picture, Curriculum Director Dr. Laura Portillo will take charge. 

Superintendent Ray Vasquez said that the updates were critical in preparation for a Texas School Safety Center “safety audit” that would take place the following week. State officials will tour the state attempting forced entry into a school building — to avoid misunderstandings, district administrations and police departments will be informed of the audit the day of, but individual campuses will not. On Tuesday, PISD announced on Facebook that Lucy Rede Franco Middle School had passed their audit with flying colors. 

Next, Nuñez gave a presentation and fielded questions about the Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan, a document that has been circulating for approval by local governments in Presidio County over the past few months. Representatives from different local law enforcement agencies have been meeting over the course of the past year to discuss how to work together in an emergency. 

Nuñez explained that the push for a multi-agency emergency plan emerged from the revelation of a proposed diesel transport operation that involved transporting hazmat in front of the elementary school multiple times a day. Though the operation seems to be suspended — for the moment — the controversy convinced local law enforcement that they needed to work more closely together. “No matter what was decided, a plan should be in place for all these participating entities,” Nuñez said. 

Both measures passed unanimously. Superintendent Vasquez told meeting attendees that he was happy to share the plans in the name of transparency, but that he wouldn’t be posting the information online as a safety measure. “We are always available to talk to [parent-teacher organizations], and we can make the information available to parents here in the office by request,” he said.