Health and Safety at the Forefront

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The leaders of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) take extraordinary measures to ensure health and safety remain a top priority. Through an ongoing joint effort, the PSJA Police Department and PSJA ISD Health Services department work together to protect the students and community through multiple initiatives.

Introduced in 2020, House Bill (HB) 496, 86th Texas Legislature, requires the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to approve training for using a bleeding control station in case of an injury on a school campus.

Sulema Solis, director of PSJA ISD Health Services and licensed family nurse practitioner (FNP), discussed PSJA ISD’s preparedness in accordance with the house bill through the use of “stop the bleed” kits.

“Our Superintendent and our Board felt very strongly that they wanted a kit in every single classroom, which is not required by the state for us to do,” Solis said.

“In some of the other tragedies seen across the state and nation, sometimes the individuals are stuck in a classroom and they can’t really get out or no one can really come in immediately. It can take as little as five minutes before someone can bleed out,” she said.

Though the state of Texas only requires one kit or “bleeding control station” per school, PSJA ISD has allocated funding to place these kits in all 2500 classrooms throughout the district. Additionally, every teacher will be trained on using the kits at the beginning of the year.

Each kit contains a tourniquet, compression bandages, and compressed gauze. Some include gloves and scissors as well. The state needed to be more specific on what items were required besides a tourniquet, but PSJA ISD wants to be as prepared as possible.

“At PSJA ISD, we know how important health and safety are for our students and staff,” said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Alejandro Elias. “We commend the work of our department leaders and teams for going above and beyond so that we can do everything we can to have safe and secure schools conducive to learning.”

The PSJA Health & Safety Mobile Operations Bus is an additional resource in an emergency.

“If we ever needed a command post where all the local law enforcement agencies and emergency response staff from a school district needed to come together, we could get the bus there quickly and that would be our instant command post,” Solis said.

The PSJA Health & Safety Mobile Operations Bus works primarily to mobilize medical services, providing opportunities for quick health assessments in the community. Solis described how the bus is brightly colored with PSJA ISD decals designed to promote the health and safety of PSJA ISD.

The bus also draws attention to the collaboration between the PSJA ISD Health Services Department and the PSJA ISD Police Department. Officer Rolando Garcia is the chief of police for PSJA ISD.

“We’re very big on promoting safety in conjunction with the health team. We work hand in hand. For example, we have Operation Border Health Preparedness coming up here soon during the summer,” Officer Garcia said.

Operation Border Health is a joint disaster preparedness exercise providing state and local government and nonprofit partners an opportunity to practice setting up and operating health clinics that may be needed in the case of a public health emergency. In 2021, the exercise provided 21,062 health services to 4,756 patients.

The event is a joint collaborative effort between local, state, federal, and private partners, including PSJA ISD, Hidalgo County, Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Military Forces, Remote  Area  Medical  Volunteer  Corps,  as well as health departments from Hidalgo County.

Officer Garcia is the first police chief for PSJA ISD. Beginning 4 years ago, he helped build the PSJA ISD police department from the ground up. Today the district has a total of 26 officers. Their goal is to continue to grow to allow for at least one officer on every school campus.

During a recent School Board Workshop held June 8, 2023, the School Board of Trustees discussed how PSJA ISD is the school district with the most security services in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Our priority is the safety of our students and staff. That way everyone at school can do their jobs without having to worry about the safety aspect in the back of their mind,” Chief Garcia said.

“Our officers that are on patrol are always on campus giving presentations, walking the hallways and speaking with kids,” he said.

Chief Garcia is passionate about his team forming relationships with students to foster a healthy view of police officers from the students.

“We’re making sure our campuses are safe, but we’re doing that by interacting with the student body and making sure that they see us as not a threat but somebody they can come to for support,” he said.

For more information about PSJA ISD’s safety measures, visit the PSJA ISD website at psjaisd.us/safety.

 

Jillian Cameron