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Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.

Texas public schools would have to install panic buttons in classrooms and ensure all doors and windows are locked and monitored under new proposed safety standards released last week by the Texas Education Agency.

The proposal is the latest effort to strengthen school safety after 19 children and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary in Uvalde last May in the state’s deadliest school shooting.

The Dallas Morning News reported that school districts in coming weeks can apply for grants from TEA to cover spending on security-related items, including installment of silent panic buttons this year. Each district will receive at least $200,000, with funds awarded on a per-student count.

Districts would also be required to undergo twice-annual maintenance checks to make sure that two-way radio equipment used by law enforcement and first responders works inside their school buildings. Previous reports indicate poor radio communication was one reason law enforcement didn’t confront the gunman for more than an hour in Uvalde.

20% increase in traffic deaths in oil and gas regions

More than 79,000 traffic crashes were recorded in 2021 in the state’s five main energy sectors — the Permian Basin, Eagle Ford Shale, Barnett Shale, Anadarko Basin and the Haynesville/Bossier Shale — resulting in 1,119 fatalities. The Texas Department of Transportation launched its “Be Safe. Drive Smart” fall campaign to remind drivers to slow down, stay alert and be extra cautious when driving in high-traffic oil- and gas-producing areas.

Drivers are urged to follow the posted speed limit and adjust driving to road conditions; don’t text or talk when behind the wheel; give large trucks plenty of space; pass only when it’s safe to do so; and always buckle up.

“Be Safe. Drive Smart” is a key part of #EndTheStreakTX, which is attempting to end the streak of daily traffic deaths in Texas. On Nov. 7, the state marked 22 years since the last deathless day on Texas roadways.

Wildfire safety urged during hunting season

Deer season is underway, and the Texas A&M Forest Service urges hunters to be careful with activities that may cause a wildfire this hunting season. From 2017 to 2021 the forest service responded to 3,682 wildfires that burned 1.4 million acres. During that period, 42 percent of wildfires occurred during the major hunting season months of September through January.

“Texas A&M Forest Service wants all hunters to be safe this upcoming season,” said Karen Stafford of the forest service. “We all have a role to play in protecting our state from wildfires, so remember to do your part and don’t let a wildfire start.”

Hunters are urged to avoid driving over and parking on dry grass, which could spark a fire; to check for burn bans in effect; never leave a campfire unattended; and to always carry a fire extinguisher, shovel and water to camp.

Emergency SNAP benefits again extended

Once again, emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food benefits have been extended through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and distributed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. More than $334.5 million in emergency benefits are going to about 1.6 million Texas households.

“As we head into the holiday season, we hope these additional allotments provide nourishing meals to Texans in need,” said Texas HHS Access and Eligibility Services Deputy Executive Commissioner Wayne Salter.

All SNAP households will receive a minimum of $95 in emergency benefits by Nov. 30. Since April 2020, more than $8.7 billion in federal food benefits have been provided to eligible Texans.

Texas again leads nation in jobs added

The latest statistics from the Texas Workforce Commission and the Bureau of Labor Statistics show Texas led the nation in jobs added over the past 12 months and broke the state’s record for total jobs for the 11th consecutive month.

The state economy has added 721,8000 positions since September 2021. The state’s unemployment rate was 4.0 percent.

“More people in Texas are working today than ever before. In fact, more people in Texas are working than the entire population of the state of Pennsylvania,” said TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez. “TWC offers an array of free services to Texans to ensure their success — everything from free online learning courses to occupational training and hiring events. We’re here to help.”

Biggest-ever Buc-ee’s coming to Luling

Buc-ee’s is planning to bring the title of largest of its travel centers back to Texas by building a 75,000-square-foot facility in Luling, about 50 miles south of Austin. The new facility will be 1,000 square feet larger than the current title holder in Tennessee, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The new building in Luling will have 120 fueling stations and is expected to open next year. Buc-ee’s began 40 years ago in Lake Jackson and now operates more than 30 travel centers in Texas and nine in other states. The company plans to expand to Colorado and Missouri.

COVID-19 cases again remain steady

The number of new cases of COVID-19 cases reported in Texas by the Coronavirus Center at Johns Hopkins University stayed steady the past week at 11,535, with 62 deaths recorded. The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state recorded by the Texas Department of State Health Services also stayed steady at 974 as of Sunday.

— Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.