(UVALDE, Texas) -- The Uvalde school board on Wednesday unanimously approved the hiring of an interim school district chief of police, Josh Gutierrez, to fill the gap left after the August ousting of the then-chief of police, Pete Arredondo.
"This is our first step in taking to rebuild our school district police force with baby steps, with very careful consideration of who comes into the department -- people with integrity and professionalism," said Uvalde Interim Superintendent Gary Patterson, during his first school board meeting in his new role.
Since Oct. 7, the entire district police force present during the May 24 massacre that saw 19 children and two teachers killed has been on suspension. Gutierrez will start in his new role Thursday.
Gutierrez most recently served as the director of Bexar County Learning Center, a school located inside a juvenile correction center in San Antonio.
Patterson said he has known Gutierrez for more than a decade and has worked with him in previous school districts. In addition to being a police officer, Gutierrez has served in several instructional and administrative roles in various Texas schools.
Gutierrez declined to answer questions after his approval.
Patterson also revealed that the Uvalde school district will forge a partnership with East Central School District because it has been declared an official certified training site for active shooter training, emergency operations training, school resource officer training, and gun and rifle training.
"We will have a close working relationship with them so we can get the training right away," Patterson said about the new police force.
Additionally, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) contributed a blueprint to Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District -- written by retired and active police chiefs around the state -- on how to build a police force for a school.
"My observation as an outsider is that many times we've seen this room filled with a lack of trust, anger and frustration," Patterson said at the start of the meeting. "My hope is that we can all work to make that better."
The theme of rebuilding lasted throughout the school board meeting Wednesday.
The board also unanimously approved a plan to build a new $50 million school two miles from the site of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, ensuring the demolition of the building where 21 lives were taken.
The new building concept, which was first presented to the community on Monday, plans to break ground next summer, opening its doors to hundreds of elementary school students in the fall of 2024.
The board approved the motion for site selection of the new elementary school, as well as the spaces and conceptual design.
The plan was one that involved dozens of Uvaldeans. Since mid-August, a community advisory committee has met six times to discuss the building, what it should look like and who it should serve. Members traveled to other communities to survey the options. The proposed concept derived from their discussions, said Natalia Arias, co-chair of the committee.
"With this evening's approval of the site and conceptual design by the UCISD school board, we now move to the schematic design phase of the project," Tim Miller, executive director of the Uvalde CISD Moving Forward Foundation, said.