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Middle school receives top score in surprise safety inspection

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Bandera Middle School (BMS) received the top score in an unannounced safety inspection required by Governor Abbott in the wake of the Robb School Elementary tragedy.

Superintendent Gary Bitzkie stated BMS “passed with no corrective action required.”

A plain-clothes team from the Texas School Safety Center conducted the random inspection on Wednesday, September 21.

The Texas School Safety Center confidentially notified Superintendent Bitzkie of their intention to do a surprise on site check of a randomly selected Bandera school during a weeklong window of time. They also notified Sheriff Dan Butts of the Bandera County Sheriff’s Department of their intent to be in the district doing the inspection.

The safety inspection was designed to determine if intruders can gain access to the campus. The site visits were not designed to resemble actual intruder situations, as the state disallowed such simulations in a 2019 ruling.

The purpose of the safety inspection is to assess building access points. It is also designed to review locked classroom door policies and test those policies. Visitor check-in rules were reviewed, as were the effectiveness of exterior door security.

The state team checked all exterior doors around the perimeter of the campus as well as checking a selection of interior classroom doors within the building. The goal of the state safety teams is to check at least one campus in every school district totaling 75 percent of all campuses in the state during the first year.

Bandera ISD has a written policy on each campus that all exterior doors as well as classroom doors must always remain locked.

BISD Director of Safety and Security Dayle Heiner reports said campuses and Facilities Department staff have put forth great effort to ensure the security of our campuses.

“I am very proud of the excellent improvements made this year,” he said.

“We have to be the barrier for these kids. Someone has to be the barrier between the bad guys and our students and it’s going to be us at all times,” remarked Bitzkie. “Every teacher wants to make sure things are going according to plan cause one little slip gives the bad guy an opportunity. Our priority is to keep our schools safe; we want to be the barrier.”

The school district has provided extensive training to both faculty and students this year.

“We are very proud of our staff and students as it’s not a one-sided thing. Our children must be involved. They have been fantastic,” said Bitzkie.

BMS Principal Patrick Sizemore said, “There is nothing more important to us at the Middle School than the safety and security of our teachers and students. My teachers work hard every day to follow through with our safety protocols.”

Principals and assistant principals do frequent daily checks to make sure all classroom and exterior doors are locked.

“We can’t be lax on our campuses. You think it can’t happen, but it can happen anywhere,” stated Bitzkie.

The BISD staff has been very supportive of the safety protocol additions this year.

“They are happy cause there is a lot of work to do. They know the reason behind it, and they believe in what they are doing. They want to prevent something from happening to our kids,” reported Bitzkie.

The results of the safety inspection will be formally reported to the School Board in October.

Bitzkie also states that the work on creating an interlocal agreement with Bandera County to provide School Officers (SOs) is on-going.

While the state is not providing any money to improve security on campuses, Bitzkie says that BISD is committed to doing everything possible to keep our students and staff safe.