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MCISDlogoMISSION — As disturbing as the recent rash of school safety issues in the Rio Grande Valley have been, Mission Consolidated Independent School District (MCISD) officials, like many others, are using each incident as a tool to make possible improvements to MCISD school safety.

“While we try to make the best plans possible and take appropriate measures to deal with many different safety scenarios, there is always something else that can be tweaked to make those plans better,” said Dr. Cornelio Gonzalez, superintendent. “Each time there is an incident like those of recent days, we take a look at the specifics of the event and then look at ourselves, our plans, our procedures (and) our buildings. Often times, we find something to improve upon.”

One of the more recent areas of concern that is being addressed by MCISD, based upon recent events, is parent communication during a crisis event.

“While technology can help with some of that through automated phoning systems that are in place, that will never reach all parents,” Gonzalez said. “There is the crush of parents trying to arrive at the scene, as well as the huge influx of inbound callers and the news media. We know that if we can provide as much information as possible, as quickly as we can, that will go a long way in alleviating many concerns and hopefully lessen some of the confusion that always surrounds crisis events.”

District officials are also trying to remind parents of the importance of keeping the schools up to date with any changes in their contact information.

“Whether it is an individual emergency or a campus-wide event, having correct phone numbers for parents is crucial,” said Gonzalez. “This school year we have started to use our SchoolMessenger system for attendance calls, important reminders, and some situations where parent notifications were needed, but there was not enough time to write and make copies of letters to send home with students. The mass calling system will only be effective if we have up-to-date phone numbers from our families.”

Gonzalez said an important tool that is used by MCISD is school safety audits that are required every three years. He said these comprehensive audits are conducted by an outside company and provide the schools and district with invaluable information on possible weaknesses as well as the areas that are strong.

“Planning and training are two key areas of school safety that we continually have to stress,” Gonzalez added. “We are in the process of upgrading our comprehensive emergency response plans, from the district level on down through our individual schools and buildings. Each one ends up with its own different plan, based upon factors like their physical campus and the students being served. While all our plans will have certain things in common, each will show some variations to meet their needs.”

Not only are the emergency plans accessible to required district and campus personnel, local emergency responders have immediate access to all of MCISD’s emergency response plans through an online system called REM4ed. Through this system district officials and first responders can access information needed in emergencies through computers, and portable devices like tablets and smartphones.

“We have a very good relationship with our local police departments and fire departments,” Gonzalez said. “That has always played an important role in keeping our students and staff safe and we want to make sure they are a part of our planning, not just the response.”

The REM4ed system not only provides step-by-step response plans, but also includes aerial photos of all district buildings, as well as building layouts that identify import items like: AED placement, fire extinguishers, water and gas shutoffs, electrical panels, camera locations.

Gonzalez also said procedural drills on things like lockdowns and fire drills are important aspects of preparedness that students, teachers and parents need to make sure are taken seriously. He said the drills may seem silly to some, but in a real event, the response of everyone becomes critical and the drills help make sure everyone knows what to do.

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