The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Deputy Superintendent Mark Porterie reminded PAISD trustees that the district implemented its Crisis Management Safety Plan twice in recent months as a result of hostage situations near schools and the plan had worked as designed and both situations were resolved without injury.
“We had two incidents this year — the Memorial Ninth Grade Center and Tyrrell Elementary — where parents had to meet their students at an alternate site,” Porterie told the board.
About 700 students arriving at Tyrrell on Oct. 2 were relocated as a precautionary measure after a SWAT team was forced to use tear gas to try and force a burglar out of a home near the school. The students were moved to the auditorium at Thomas Jefferson Middle School until all traces of the chemical agent which were sprayed at the home, had dissipated.
Buses were diverted to TJMS and school staff were on scene to direct parents to a drop off location at the middle school.
In the other incident, students at Memorial 9th Grade Campus, formerly Stephen F. Austin Middle School, were evacuated to Memorial High School on Dec. 13 because of a hostage situation in a nearby neighborhood.
Authorities negotiated with a man holding his 2-year-old niece hostage claiming to have several guns and two homemade bombs for nearly nine hours before he surrendered.
Students were bused home after school let out, and teachers were shuttled back to their vehicles.
“I really have to commend the parents. The principals were making calls and Blackboard Connect made the contacts,” Porterie said.
“We’re happy to say we’ve had this plan for several years,” Porterie told the board. “Out constables have a copy of this plan. Inside you’ll find scenarios: if there was an armed person, a hostage. It tells what each person would do. There are aerial photographs of each campus and police have copies of the aerial photos.”
There are other enhancements to security currently being installed in the district, such as buzzers on the doors and glass encapsulating where the receptionists sit.
Trustee Theodore “Theo” Victor noted that PAISD has been ahead of the curve on crisis planning.
“Now there is a big push from our state legislators for armed people in our schools. We have had this for a number of years now. Others are playing catch-up,” Victor said.
Trustee Kenneth Lofton wanted to know whether students do drills for other emergencies like they do fire drills.
“Our students have evacuation drills, lock-down drills, duck and cover drills. The teachers also have kits with what to do in emergencies,” Porterie said. “What we are doing is sharpening our skills on our crisis plans, we are communicating that to our teachers and our community.”
Trustee Gregory Flores noted that the school board has not had training in the crisis plans.
“We don’t even know what’s in your book,” he said. “I’d like to see us have some sort of training.”