KATY, Texas - With more headlines of shootings and hoax calls, conversations have sparked over cell phone usage during an emergency, and questions like, "what is the standard protocol and are parents able to reach their children?"
"In 2030 we are going to hit 100,000 students," says Katy ISD Superintendent Kenneth Gregorski. "We closed our doors with 91,500 in May."
Katy ISD is the third-largest school district in the Houston area, fifth in Texas, and continues to grow for the first time welcoming more than 90,000 students back to school for the 2022- 2023 school year.
"We are growing almost 5%, which is huge," says Gregorski. "The year before that during the pandemic it was almost 1%, so we are averaging out 2- 2.5 growth."
However, for some parents sending their children back to school means knowing their safety is a top priority and that it’s being addressed. Conversations sparked as a result regarding cell phone usage in schools, and the protocol during an emergency or active shooter.
Ruben Martinez, the district emergency management coordinator for the district says, there are policies in place when a student may or may not use a cellular device.
"Like Dr. Gregorski said, for educational purposes, there is a directive to put their phones away," says Martinez. "My answer is two parts, there is an elementary version and a secondary version. Our secondary students have more liberty, they carry their phones with them, our elementary kids have it in their backpacks."
"That’s not going away Katy ISD supports that; support that connection parents have with their students we just ask that they get put away during curriculum," he added.
However, the emergency management coordinator says, he is aware of the growing conversation over this issue.
"If there is an actual active threat inside the campus and parents are asking what students will have access to their phones," Martinez explained.
He also says the district follows protocol from the Alert Civilian Response to Active Shooter events training.
"During an emergency event Katy ISD teaches staff and it’s passed on to students that in an active threat environment that phones are silent and put away until they are exiting the building and once, they have exited then they are able to use them," says Martinez.
In training and protocol, students should remain quiet, and give their full attention to their educators.
"Which is what they recommend,I have carried that over and included it into our guidelines as to how we conduct ourselves," says Martinez.
Gregorski says schools have been fitted with the latest safety and security mechanisms features recommended by the Texas School Safety Center.
"We have a first-class police force that’s in our buildings," he concluded. "We have a police presence this year larger than we have ever had in any other time I’ve been here at Katy ISD.Superintendent."