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'Let's stop using the word safe, how do we keep our children alive in the school building' | Central Texas superintendents work to reassure safety

Central Texas school leaders say safety is the number one priority, but finding the solution to reassure it can be difficult.

TEXAS, USA — The sadness and worries are reaching far outside the Uvalde community after 19 elementary students and two teachers were fatally shot in the middle of the school day. Central Texas school districts are trying to figure out how to reassure safety of students and staff.

School districts 6 News spoke with are all taking different approaches in their response to what is now the deadliest school shooting in Texas. They all say safety is the number one priority, but finding the solution to reassure can be difficult.

It's an unsettling statement, but Marlin Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Darryl Henson said it's not about how to keep students and staff safe anymore, it's about how to keep them alive. That's his reality.

"We now have to teach our children how to barricade themselves, how to get below a desk, how to live in fear," he said. "For the education system, not only do we have to teach our children mathematics, reading, science and social studies -- we are now on a day we have to teach you how to survive and how to survive and how to stay alive in a school building."

RELATED: Texas has some safety requirements for public schools — but leaves most of the particulars up to education officials

During an interview with 6 News, Dr. Henson described how he is feeling as flabbergasted and saddened for the Uvalde community, but he's frustrated with what education has come to now a days.

"Children, students and educators can't go to school to learn without the fear of not coming home, I am at a loss for words," Dr. Henson said.

Central Texas schools are now beefing up security and patrols as they close out the school year.

"It was in direct response to the events that happened in Uvalde [Tuesday] but sometimes I feel that's the only thing that I can do is increase their presence to give the optics of safety," he said.

Dr. Henson says it's not a permanent solution, but he's not sure what is.

"It's not just a one prong approach from metal detectors, to gun control, to mental health, to get awareness of working with individuals who might be suffering something," he said.

The Killeen Independent School District announced Wednesday that there will be an increase in law enforcement present at its five graduation ceremonies happening at the Bell County Expo.

Gatesville ISD says they are keeping their school resource officers on duty for the summer. Usually, members of the Gatesville Police go back to work at the department during the summer, but the district wanted to make sure they have police covering all summer sessions.

Temple Independent School District says campus will have additional police officers and security in the mornings during drop-off and in the afternoons during dismissal. The district says Temple Police Force will have patrols and provide frequent onsite "checks."

Dr. Michael Novotny, Superintendent of Salado Independent says schools are primarily secure.

"I take comfort in knowing the statistics that schools are still very safe environment for our kids," he said.

Salado ISD has a full time school resource officer, limited entries in the schools and security vestibules.

His district has a "Safety and Security Committee" made up of local law enforcement and district leaders to make sure they stay ahead, but come their next meeting in early-June, other recommendations could be discussed after the Uvalde tragedy.

"I would say that the best things we can do are find ways to limit access in the buildings, making sure that we have mental health available, and when kids are in crisis -- we have a good system to report those situations so we can get them help," Dr. Novotny added. 

Dr. Henson says ideas are a start, but he's tired of talking and wants action.

"I don't know what the answer is, but we have to demand action to keep our children and our educators not safe, but alive."

As of now school safety measures are largely up to individual school districts, but the state does mandate some policies.

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