Uvalde’s school police chief in turmoil faced Wednesday becoming the first officer to lose his job because of the hesitant response of hundreds of heavily armed police during the massacre at Robb Elementary School in May.
The unelected Consolidated Independent School District was set to make a decision on Pete Arredondo’s future, three months to the day after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in one of the deadliest classroom attacks in US history.
The meeting comes less than two weeks before the new school year starts in Uvalde.
Arredondo, who has been on administrative leave since June, has come under the most scrutiny for his actions during the May 24 tragedy. State police and a damning investigative report in July have criticized the police chief of the school district of about 4,000 students for failing to take control of the scene, not breaching the classroom earlier and wasting time looking for a key to a likely unlocked door.
Ninety days after the massacre, the absence of any shooting has frustrated many Uvalde residents and reinforced demands for accountability. Investigations and body camera footage have revealed how police rushed to the scene with bulletproof shields and high-powered rifles within minutes – but waited more than an hour before finally confronting the gunman in a classroom of fourth-graders.
An attorney for Arredondo did not respond to an email Tuesday.
Unelected school officials have been under increasing pressure from victims’ families and community members, many of whom have called for Arredondo’s resignation. Superintendent Hal Harrell had initially moved to fire Arredondo in July, but delayed the decision at the request of the police chief’s attorney.
Only one other police officer at the scene, Uvalde Police Lt. Mariano Pargas, is known to have been on leave since the shooting. Pargas was the city’s acting police chief during the massacre.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which had more than 90 state troopers on the scene, has also launched an internal investigation into the state police response.
School officials have said the campus at Robb Elementary will no longer be used. Instead, campuses elsewhere in Uvalde will serve as temporary classrooms for elementary students, not all of whom are willing to return to school in person after the shooting.
School officials say a virtual academy will be offered for students. The district has not said how many students will participate virtually, but a new state law passed last year in Texas after the pandemic limits the number of eligible students receiving distance learning to “10% of all enrolled students within a given school system.”
Schools can apply for a waiver to exceed the limit, but Uvalde has not, according to Melissa Holmes, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.
New measures to improve school security in Uvalde include “8-foot, non-scalable perimeter fences” at elementary, middle and high schools, according to the school district. Officials say they have also installed additional security cameras, upgraded locks, improved training for district employees and improved communications.
According to the district’s own progress reports, however, fencing had not begun on six of the eight planned campuses as of Tuesday, and cameras had only been installed at the high school. Some progress had been made with locks on three of eight campuses, and communications improvements were marked as half-complete for each campus.
Unelected CISD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.