UVALDE, Texas — A walk in and around Sacred Heart Catholic School isn’t the same as months ago.
The premises of the school are surrounded by a newly installed eight-foot-high black steel fence. The exterior of the windows and doors are covered by a temporary bulletproof material that will exist for about three weeks until new bulletproof glass is installed. There’s also a brand new playground that will soon be joined by a new basketball court.
Inside the school, there are new magnetic door locks hooked up to new cameras, part of a $43,000 security system donated by San Antonio-based Convergint Technologies. Unlike last school year, every classroom is in use — with more desks — because of the enrollment increase, and they’re all outfitted with prominently displayed emergency protocols. The cafeteria was also upgraded with a new ceiling, floor, and kitchen.
Outside of the classroom doors, there’s another sign that’s a little more fun — giving the students options for actions they can do entering the classroom: a dab (a dance move where one arm is extended out and the other bent across the face), an air hug, a side hug, and a fist bump.
All of the changes are in response to the May 24 school shooting that took place a mile and a half down the road at Robb Elementary School. Joseph Olan, the Sacred Heart principal, told The Tablet the changes are an effort to make the school safer and give parents and students “peace of mind.”
“We’re not just wanting the adults to feel safe, we want our own students to feel safe because the whole community was attacked that day,” Olan said.
There are staffing changes, as well. The school added more teachers to meet the needs of a student population that went from 55 to 105 and is climbing, with about four dozen of those students from Robb. More importantly, though, every staff member was trained over the summer in trauma response and proactive social-emotional strategies so they can recognize when a student needs support and intervene.
There will also be a full-time counselor from Catholic Charities of San Antonio on campus. And in the foyer of the school, a table is set up with different available counseling resources.
“My staff is ready,” Olan said. “They’re prepared to help serve the social-emotional well-being of our students, and we’re going to revisit trainings as needed.”
Olan said the first day of school was a good start to show the students the positive climate and culture of the school and how they contribute to that, noting that as the day went on, he could tell the students settled into their new classrooms and began to “feel like they’re at home at Sacred Heart.”