COPPERAS COVE — Students in the Copperas Cove Independent School District returned to classes Monday, after multiple bomb threats forced the district to cancel classes for three days last week.
Parents and students reported crowds outside the district high school and junior high schools Monday, as students returned to campuses where district officials had beefed up security measures in their absence.
Other parents reported the presence of law enforcement and dogs at some schools, as well as searches of students and their belongings.
At an emergency meeting Thursday, the district’s board of trustees voted to approve new security procedures proposed by Superintendent Joseph Burns and his administration.
“This week will begin with significant changes for all of the campuses in CCISD,” Burns said in a letter to parents Sunday. “These changes are being implemented to ensure the safety of the students we serve and the staff we employ.”
The district and Burns declined to say what specific measures had been taken, citing concerns about student safety. However, in the letter, Burns tells parents not to allow students to bring any “non-school” related items to the campus, and that students were to immediately enter the building once they arrive at their respective school.
The letter also states no guests would be allowed onto the campuses this week.
“In order to create the safest environment possible, CCISD has partnered with Copperas Cove Police and Fire Departments as well as staff from Fort Hood,” Burns said in the letter. “As a result of these partnerships, school will be conducted very differently this upcoming week.”
On Monday, the district announced that Wednesday through Friday would also be early release days, meaning all campuses will release students two hours earlier than usual.
During a called City Council meeting Monday, the government body authorized the district to build a fence in a city drainage easement to help secure the high school.
Constructing fencing around the high school has occurred around the building for several years, said Deputy Superintendent Richard Kirkpatrick. The western portion of a security fence was installed about four years ago, and this will help complete the fencing behind the high school.
“This is just another way to keep those kids safe at the high school,” Kirkpatrick said to the council, noting that the idea was “spurred” by the recent bomb threats.
According to plans and information from the city, the fence will be placed about 10 feet into the city easement abutting Avenue D. About 75 feet of chain-link fence will be installed on a slope heading toward the roadway west of the baseball fields.
Once completed, security fencing will extend from the district’s administration buildings to the high school’s back parking lot. The district plans to construct the fence during winter break.
An agreement to allow the fence into easement states the school district is responsible for the barrier after it is erected. Responsibility would include making repairs, cleaning debris and being liable for anyone who is injured on the fence.
City Manager Andrea Gardner said the area is known to flood during heavy rainfall, and such a structure may not be able to withstand a downpour.
If the fence falls, the district will not only have to fix it but draft another agreement with the city, she said.
District officials have not said whether the changes to security at schools would be permanent.
As of Monday, they also had not decided about students making up missed days by cutting into scheduled vacations, such as spring break, according to district spokeswoman Olga Peña.
Since early December, the district has experienced a total of nine bomb threats at its three secondary campuses, with the last one occurring on the night of Dec. 11.
As of Monday, Copperas Cove police have detained eight juveniles in connection with four of the threats, and continue to investigate all nine incidents.