Two local residents — one with children and one with grandchildren who are students attending Stephenville schools — spoke to the SISD Board of Trustees during Monday’s regular meeting and both expressed support for the Guardian Plan that has been a topic of discussion in recent weeks.
At an SISD board meeting last month, two other parents addressed the trustees — but they both said they are opposed to the Guardian Plan, which would allow the school district to approve specified employees to carry firearms with the goal of providing protection for students and staff members.
Monday, the grandfather told the trustees that he thinks that, “Gun-free seems to be an invitation to someone who wants to cause maximum damage and death. I believe we must have multiple armed people on each campus. A good-intentioned person should be allowed to protect (students) with the same tools as a bad-intentioned person.”
Then he predicted that if an incident does occur on an SISD campus, “Who’s the community going to look at?”
The next speaker stated that he is “very much in favor” of the Guardian Plan because “it is an immediate response to an immediate threat,” and “it serves as a strong deterrent.”
Superintendent Matt Underwood gave a report on the topic to the trustees. He said that when parents recently returned surveys on the “likability” of the Guardian Plan, they showed they were in favor with an overall cumulative grade of 7.5 out of 10.
“We’ll probably put together a proposal at the next board meeting, and a recommendation from the administration,” Underwood said Tuesday morning. “It’s a hard decision. I’ve come a long way on this and I’m convinced we need to be able to react to any situation quickly and efficiently.”
Underwood has said he favors the Guardian Policy, but said that it’s “a sad day” that the topic of school violence has to be addressed locally, but noted, “It’s an inconvenient reality. We have support from local law enforcement, and I think as a community we all need to work together to keep our kids safe.”
Also during the meeting, the trustees voted unanimously to hire the safety and security consulting firm Crux Solutions.
“They worked with the district previously on the Central and Chamberlin programs,” Underwood said. “They also fill a unique niche in K-12 safety and security.
“There’s not many firms out there that do what they do. They do a strategic process.
“They get input from students and parents. Communication is important. Everybody says they want security, until they’re inconvenienced. Then they’re not so sure.”
Three representatives from the architecture firm Huckabee Inc. — Daren Kirbo of the firm’s Austin office, along with Casey Casstevens and Stephenville native Josh Cogburn — presented schematic plans for the renovation and expansion of Stephenville High School with new gymnasium, fire arts and theater additions along with an ag building.
After a lengthy discussion of details shown on the drawings, the trustees voted to approve schematic plans by a 6-1 vote. Cole Parks cast the only no vote, stating in part that he preferred seeing projected growth numbers might affect the school’s capacity.
Kirbo told the trustees that he expects the overall project at the high school to be completed by Oct. 2020.
“We don’t have any demolitions of any existing buildings,” said Kirbo, noting that the current high school was built in 1974. “We’re doing a lot of external removals. This is not a very complicated construction project. Really, as far as time scheduled, it comes together fairly quickly.”
Underwood said the vote approving the schematic design “sets the footprint” and added, “From this point forward I think we should get an update every month. Next will be the design and development phase, just a more detailed plan.”
Kirbo said the company received proposals from eight general contractors to do build a softball field at SHS — which has no field, and has to use one at City Park for its practices and games. He said the eight bids ranged from $1.7 million to $2.5 million. The lowest bid also was deemed to be the “most qualified,” he added.
“We’re trying to work it down to about $1.5 million,” Kirbo said.
A special SISD board meeting is set for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26, to decide if the bids for the school’s softball field will be approved.
The board members approved hiring Andrea Sims as a new special education inclusion teacher for kindergarten at Central Elementary School. Sims was already working for the SISD as an aide in special education.