Bully-battling nerds, contraband-sniffing dogs, poster contests and police and fire department presentations are part of this year’s Killeen Independent School District Safety Week.
For the 24th year, the school district’s individual campuses are bringing attention the first week of February to the importance of staying safe at school, at home, in cyberspace and everywhere else.
An excited crowd of kindergarten, first- and second-grade students welcomed canine handler Al Ortega and his furry partner Jazz on Monday to the Cavazos Elementary School gym.
Answering questions, Ortega explained that it takes about six months to train a canine to detect contraband — a big word, he said, that means things you can’t take to school.
In a demonstration, the dog and handler showed how the search for unsafe items is a game of sniff and find for the animal. Jazz, a Labrador mix, alerted three times, sitting obediently in front of chairs or bags. Ortega pulled out medication, a firecracker and a can of beer.
Typically, the handler and canine arrive randomly at middle schools and high schools, he said, to search hallways, lockers, restrooms and student parking lots.
It’s all an effort to keep schools and people safe, he said.
One student asked why Jazz was such a spaz. “She gets excited,” said Ortega. “She loves her job.”
KISD Safety Director John Dye said Friday that campus leaders set up their week to bring a broad understanding of safety relevant for their specific population.
“One of the key parts I emphasize is the combined effort of a campus,” he said. “They focus on a wide variety of education as it relates to safety.”
Each school has a safety week coordinator. They schedule special guests, including the Interquest Detection Canine demonstrations, as well as law enforcement representatives and other experts.
“The education covers several areas and is specific to each age group,” the safety director said.
While elementary schools lean toward the canines and the Morris Brothers’ anti-bullying comedy presentations, high schools might focus on safe driving and responsible use of social media, Dye said.
Those programs and activities combine with funding the district makes available to each campus for the purchase of supplies such as extra radios, flashlights and first aid kits or teaching materials.
At Nolanville Elementary School on Monday, the Morris Brothers — “Homer” and “Rupert” — worked their young crowd into an excited frenzy.
Sharing their “story of courage and confidence,” they explained how they were working in their secret lab when an explosion left them with crazy hair, broken glasses and a super power to entertain the world.
Some of their friends called them nerds because of their silly plaid pants and taped together glasses, but the Morrises explained that NERD means Never Ending Radical Dude (or dudette).
Bringing volunteers to the cafeteria stage for songs like “I Can Be a Superhero,” and for role-play scenarios showing ways to include everyone on the playground, the Morrises entertained and informed.
A friendly school, the Morrises said, is one characterized by respect, which includes good manners, listening to authorities and not teasing others.
During role-play scenes, the two top nerds picked volunteers and showed how leaving someone out of a game is hurtful. They also showed the difference between reporting a problem like a possible fight or merely tattling about untied shoes.
Several schools plan poster and essay contests and address topics such as how to safely board and exit a bus, how to act around animals, avoiding starting a fire and navigating social media responsibly.