In November 2022, Austin voters approved $2.44 billion in bond funds for improvements across the Austin Independent School District. With those funds, many of AISD’s older campuses will be modernized, and all of its campuses will receive safety and security assessments and upgrades, totaling approximately $147 million. To determine the current status of the safety and security upgrades, I spoke with AISD executive director of construction management, Michael Mann.


“AISD is putting safety and security at the front of its bond projects and is working to get those improvements done as quickly as possible,” said Mann. “The goal is to have all safety and security updates complete by the end of the calendar year 2025.”


Campus assessments and upgrades will include security fencing, secure entry vestibules, lock and key upgrades and renovations to open-space campuses.


Security fencing

The 2022 bond program provides $5 million for fencing upgrades. Every campus that does not already have secure perimeter fencing will receive fencing or will be provided with secure fencing upgrades. (Schools that received full modernization projects through the 2017 bond program already have security fencing in place.)


According to Mann, “As of February 2024, new perimeter fencing has either been installed or is in the process of being installed at 18 schools. The district is in the planning phase for installing perimeter fencing at 12 schools and around 30 more campuses are expected to have their fencing projects completed or in process by the end of the 2024 calendar year.”


Secure entry vestibules

Entry vestibules provide a secure, locked area where all campus visitors must be granted access through multiple checkpoints. The 2022 bond program includes $41.5 million to construct a secure entry vestibule at every school that does not already have one.

Construction will begin on the first vestibule projects this summer when students are not on campus. All secure vestibule projects that are not part of a larger school modernization project will be complete by the end of the calendar year 2025.


Mann explained the vestibule protocol that will eventually be in place on every campus. “The main door will always be locked and there will be a way to see the visitor, either through line of sight or a camera. The visitor will ring a bell and state his business over an intercom; the intercom systems are also receiving upgrades. Once the office staff unlocks the front door remotely, the visitor enters a secure vestibule where the staff can provide another visual check. From there, the visitor will be buzzed into the office where his identification will be scanned, initiating a small background check. Finally, he will be buzzed in or escorted into campus.”

Locks and keys

The 2022 bond program allows $5 million for new locks and keys to improve security on AISD campuses. This category includes replacing hardware that is old or broken, as well as providing upgrades or replacements to the doors themselves. Some campuses have a large number of keys to secure multiple doors. The bond program will allow for the number of keys to be streamlined, allowing staff to quickly secure the building if necessary.


Renovations to open-concept campuses

Open-concept schools currently lack doors and walls in some of their classrooms. The 2022 bond program includes $58.9 million to reconfigure classroom layouts and improve safety at Cook, Oak Hill, Odom and Williams elementary schools by adding solid doors and walls to classrooms and other learning spaces.


“The first open concept project, Odom Elementary, began construction in December 2023,” said Mann. “Renovations to the remaining three open-concept campuses will begin this spring.


AISD is also working long-term to establish “community rooms” at the front of its schools to serve as multi-purpose rooms for events. These rooms would be separated from the main campus to further limit the number of people entering the campus.


“Generally, the community rooms would be right by the front office,” said Mann. “Some campuses have these now, but ultimately the plan is for all campuses to have them. These community rooms are part of campus modernization efforts, not part of the 2022 bond program, but they would increase security.”


The district has established safety and security policies but does allow for some campus-level flexibility. Each campus will have its own operation standards as to what it will and will not allow in terms of visitors on campus and in the classroom. While security and safety are of primary importance, Mann reassures, “We are working to keep students and staff safe, but we still want to allow for a warm and welcoming environment.”


Alison Bogle is a writer living in Austin with her husband and three children. A former fourth grade teacher, she now enjoys writing about children and education. You can also catch her talking about articles from Austin Family magazine each Thursday morning on FOX 7 Austin.

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