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HISD superintendent on school safety, monkeypox, teacher shortage ahead of upcoming school year

This comes a week after the superintendent said the district’s police department is not prepared for an active shooter scenario.

HOUSTON — Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II and district leaders held a news conference Wednesday to discuss planning and precautions being taken as students head back to school.

Along with the superintendent, HISD Police Chief Pedro Lopez was on hand to answer questions from the media.

In less than two weeks, students will return to HISD campuses for the first day of school.

KHOU 11 News will be discussing the upcoming school year with Houston ISD Superintendent Dr. Millard House II in a live interview on Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. Stream it on our app, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

School safety

House and Lopez talked about how the students will be protected. District officials said they want to make sure they're armed with the right equipment to respond to a threat.

This all comes about a week after House said the district wasn't prepared for an active shooter situation. House said he came to the realization after his team took a close look at HISD's plan in the wake of the Uvalde school shootings.

Last week, House the board it was time to invest in that equipment and scenario-based training. He didn’t mince words.

“What I do know is if there was an active shooter in HISD, our police department is not prepared,” the superintendent said.

On Wednesday, House said his statement about preparedness was taken a bit out of context.

“I want to be clear about what that looks like because it was, in my opinion, taken a little bit out of context," House said.

He said that very few school districts are prepared for an active shooter like the one in Uvalde -- in which the gunman was armed with a weapon with higher firepower than the Santa Fe shooter.

“That’s a very different type of perpetrator,” House said.

House said he has spoken with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, along with several law enforcement offices, about getting the resources they need.

“And it’s not just the city. I want to be clear about that. It’s been the constables, the sheriff’s department, all of the first responders,” House said.

House didn't elaborate on the specifics of the resources that were discussed due to safety reasons.

The school board will make a funding decision on Thursday to get rifles and shields for all Houston ISD police officers. The meeting is slated to begin at 5 p.m.

HISD Police Department update

Lopez said officers assigned to campuses are now required to complete weekly door audits. He also said several security upgrades were completed while kids were out for summer break.

“Over the summer, several HISD schools received upgrades to perimeter fencing, security cameras, and server capacity to increase video storage capacity,” Lopez said.

Lopez said the district will finish the state's summer security audit of all exterior doors before school starts.

Lopez told the school board all 200 HISD officers need a shield, rifle and ammunition, and they need to know how to use them properly.

He said the disturbing images from the elementary school hallway in Uvalde show officers who didn’t know how to breach a door and quickly neutralize a threat.

Teaching shortage

HISD said it is still facing a shortage of teachers in several subjects -- including math, science, special education and bilingual education. They said they also need counselors, social workers and transportation staff members.

The district said it's conducting a nationwide search to fill the open positions and they're also welcoming international teachers and recruiting outside of the teaching profession. The district's $2,000 signing bonus remains in effect through August.

Monkeypox

HISD said it will do everything it can to prevent the spread of monkeypox. They're working with the Houston Health Department to make sure school nurses are trained and have the right protocols in place. The strict cleaning duties that were being performed during the COVID pandemic will continue. Students will not be required to wear masks.

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