David Williams

Waco ISD Police Chief David Williams

Waco Independent School District is planning to spend nearly $650,000 to add and improve surveillance cameras and upgrade security at entry points at all its campuses with the help of a federal grant.

Waco ISD was one of nine Texas recipients awarded a total of $85.3 million to increase school security, train students and staff and to support first responders on scene of a school shooting or other violent event.

The Department of Justice announced last week that Waco ISD will receive $487,499 to help fund security improvements and provide police training to boost security efforts on campuses as a part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The grant requires the school district to contribute matching funds of 25%, or about $162,500.

“We are working on our infrastructure for our security for cameras, better doors, a keyless entry system and training for our staff and students,” Waco ISD Police Chief David Williams said. “The biggest issue is safety, across the district, and so the measures we have are good, but we wanted to go from good to great.”

Expected purchases for Waco ISD will include surveillance camera equipment, servers supporting video management systems, switches to power cameras, keyless entry points, camera and access control licensing. Williams said all campuses will get upgrades in all security measures.

The COPS grant will fund more than $5 million to prevent violence in the Western District of Texas after President Donald Trump signed the STOP School Violence Act into law in March 2018. The grants are geared to improve threat assessments, train students and staff to provide tips and help others to prevent school shootings and other violent acts in and around schools.

In a grant application, Williams reported more than 11,000 disciplinary actions were taken on 26 Waco ISD campuses last year. Offenses included carrying prohibited weapons and assault of a school employee.

“These nontrivial acts of violence are just as significant as the possibility of an incident as extreme as a school shooting,” the narrative states in part. “WISD is continuing and adjusting its academic strategies to meet students where they need to be met to succeed, and them improvement and enhancement of its security is no less a priority.”

The narrative outlines an improved comprehensive safety plan that calls for meetings with other agencies, such as Waco Police Department, as well as surveys of campus officials.

School officials intend to create full visibility on campuses and to streamline communication and training on how to handle safety incidents.

With the help of the grant money, Waco ISD began implementing improvements this month and will likely wrap up in Sept. 2021.

“With a better infrastructure, like having better cameras, better locking systems and safety vestibules in all of our schools, we will be able to make our schools better,” Williams said. “If children and safe are safe, it is just going to help us educate our (children) better.”

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Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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