Parents, school board member raise concerns about safety of new Waco ISD school design

Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 5:47 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) -Parents and board members are coming forward with concerns about the proposed design concept for the new schools to be built for Waco ISD.

Waco ISD has been working to design three new schools within the district: Waco High School, G.W. Carver Middle School, and Tennyson Middle School.

At the last school board meeting on July 21, design elements were discussed for the new Tennyson Middle School. Two board members voted no to approving the design citing safety concerns.

Trustee Jeremy Davis says the idea of having one wall of classrooms be made of glass raised red flags.

“I inquired about distractions that it might have in the classroom but also we know the reality of our country,” Davis said. “We are seeing active shooters more or more unfortunately and in that incident, I wonder where our kids would go.”

The proposed design includes classrooms having a large glass wall facing a shared space.

This is designed for small group breakouts and building a sense of community but some board members and parents worry about the visibility if there is a threat.

“My kids will be attending all throughout Waco high and I’m thinking about how it feels as a parent to have my children in those schools and be susceptible and vulnerable to danger in that kind of way,” Hope Balfa Mustakim, a Waco mom, said.

She says it’s not enough to have safety measures to keep people from coming into the building as the threat could come from inside.

“I think a lot of people may perceive the threat comes from outside but we really need to think about once people have entered the building, how we keep our children safe,” Balfa Mustakim said.

“They need to feel safe and have a building that they can rely on,” Davis said. “Teacher can focus on teaching and not coming up with extreme plans, and we can stick to the protocols that we always follow.”

Waco ISD leaders assure us that safety is top of mind.

“They have multiple levels of security that begins at the perimeter of the campus and focuses on keeping anyone who shouldn’t be there from gaining access to the building,” Kyle DeBeer, Waco ISD Chief of Staff, said.

The design plan includes surveillance, doors that are only opened by card readers and alerts administrators if a door is not locked, as well as the ability to instantly lock down sectors of the schools if there is a threat.

Trustee Davis had originally voted in favor of the design in previous meetings but says he wants the design to include an area protected by a barrier for children to go to that is out of the line of sight.

“These barriers should protect against bullets and other weaponry as they learn and grow,” Davis said. “Also, these barriers should block or limit the line of sight into classrooms.”

“All of the classroom areas are designed with a variety of classroom designs but worked into those designs are areas kids can retreat to and all of the classrooms also include curtains or shades that can be used to block sight,” DeBeer said.

The proposed design was approved in a 4 to 2 vote on July 21.

The discussion of this topic is not on this week’s board meeting agenda but Davis has requested it be put on a future agenda.

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