STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BERTRAM — With the recent violent shootings at schools across the country, Burnet-area law enforcement agencies are launching and updating active shooter procedures.
Three Burnet Consolidated Independent School District elementary campuses participated in drills Feb. 26.
At Bertram Elementary School, students and educators took part in drills for the first time. The drills covered various scenarios so staff and children could reach a level of comfort and proficiency should a violent event occur on campus.
“This is the first on-scene drill, where (we had) all hands on deck with every teacher and every student involved,” Bertram Police Chief J.J. Wilson said. “A series of situations throughout our country … has changed the way we do business. We have to prepare for this, unfortunately.”
On Feb. 14, during the most recent school shooting in the United States, 15 students and two educators in Parkland, Florida, were killed when an expelled student opened fire in a high school.
Prior to that, federal figures indicated a rise in active shooter events at schools and workplaces since 2001.
To mitigate such violence at local schools, Bertram Elementary joined two other BCISD campuses already conducting active shooter drills: R.J. Richey Elementary and Shady Grove Elementary.
“(The schools are) receptive and want to know what they need to do,” Wilson said. “The first priority is to keep the kids safe.”
In 2017, BCISD developed faculty training protocols and continued updates to campus emergency communication procedures, visitor screenings, and security measures.
Also on Feb. 26, the Burnet Police Department coordinated another round in a series of drills at R.J. Richey and Shady Grove.
“(After the event), I’m sitting down with principals, answering and asking questions. We didn’t see any issues,” Burnet Police Chief Paul Nelson said of the drills, which typically last 20-45 minutes each.
“Teachers did great getting things locked (that) they’re supposed (to) and keeping the kids quiet and occupied,” Nelson added.
The drills will become part of a continued effort to create safer schools.
“We’ve come a long way as far as fencing, gates, and security measures,” Wilson said. “Bertram Elementary is a lot more secure than it was two years ago, covering all the weak spots on the campus.”
Authorities worked to make students feel more comfortable with the practice.
“It can be stressful, like any fire alarm or tornado warning, but we help them understand (that), to keep them safe, we need to have this practice,” Wilson said. “It’s become a necessary standard, so it will be part of the training along with any emergency management situation.”