Vote 4 NM: The challenge of protecting schools
October 04, 2018 04:24 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — School campuses look at lot different than they did 20-30 years ago.
Most schools are now surrounded by fencing and doors are often locked.
Mass shooting at schools across the country have prompted security upgrades.
In Aztec, New Mexico, where a gunman shot and killed students Casey Marquez and Francisco “Paco” Fernandez, students are required to wear their ID cards at all times and in the hallways, there are new school resource officers.
The school district says it’s doing everything it can to prevent another shooting.
“There's no textbook on going through a school shooting and losing two students is something you never forget, never will forget,” said Aztec Superintendent Kirk Carpenter.
Aztec high school was originally built as an open campus. It sits on 11 acres of land. At any point, up to 400 students have to cross a residential street in order to get to the other side of the campus.
The superintendent said he wants to $900,000 security hub.
“It's not just about throwing money at things, it's about addressing ways to find and use revenue to support things,” said Carpenter.
Increasing security is expensive. Aztec is one of many school districts that are applying for state grants.
Albuquerque Public Schools needs money to pay for cameras, fences and locks for doors.
A state grant would cover $6 million of the total $13 million cost.
“I think the money should be available to the districts, straight up, as safety money,” said APS Chief Operations Officer Scott Elder. “There are certain districts that have a hard time … and that's not right. Those kids need to be protected too.”
Rio Rancho Public Schools is asking the state for almost $600,000 to pay for almost $900,000 worth of projects.
“All the schools are a little bit different but at Rio Rancho High School, it's a fairly open campus. One of our biggest challenges has to do is containing and to ensure, once again, that the people that need to be here are here, “ said Rio Rancho Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Michael Baker. “We added about 90 cameras to the facility and then we added this bank of LED monitors in order to capture as many views as possible.”
Every person who visits Rio Rancho High School will be on camera and go through security. Visitors also have to be buzzed in.
The district also wants to use state money for state-of-the-art technology.
“What we call an Eagle System,” Baker said. “That is a shot alert system and what that system is, God forbid, somebody is able to get a weapon on campus and that weapon is used, it will send off an alarm.”
Aztec, APS, and Rio Rancho school districts agree that equipment and secure facilities are not the answers to all the problems.
They believe they need to recognize threats, get ahead of the problem and focus on prevention.
“The more adults we have on campus that are available to build those relationships with kids and that can be a security officer or can be a social worker or counselor, that's where we're going to make the biggest impact on keeping our children safe,” said Elder.
The legislature can also look at updating existing laws. For instance, calling in a bomb threat is a felony but threatening to shoot up a school is not.
When it comes to funding, if state leaders allocate money to help protect schools, students and district officials hope the changes will stay funded in the future.
“There's things not getting funded that now are absolute necessities,” Carpenter said, in reference to mental health specialists.
Carpenter said he plans to fight for every school in New Mexico, not just his district.
“We're going to work to make sure we see change ‘cause we owe it to our kids and we owe it to Casey and Paco,” he said.
Updated: October 04, 2018 04:24 PM
Created: September 18, 2018 09:38 PM
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