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Posted February 20, 2018

Improving School Security

In the last bond election in 2016, voters approved millions of dollars for safety upgrades and improvements.

Thanks to taxpayers, Albuquerque Public Schools is working to make schools even safer.

Voters overwhelming approved a ballot initiative a couple of years ago that puts $5.6 million into school security. Another $1.2 million in voter-approved capital funding is being used to build a centralized police communications center for the district. In addition, the state legislature appropriated $40 million for school security statewide. That amounts to another $10 million or so over four years to APS for safety upgrades and improvements.

The district is using the funding in a variety of ways including updating security cameras, providing more secure building access and improving intrusion alarms at schools across the district. Upgrades are made based on the needs of the school. For example, some older schools have outdated security cameras that needed to be replaced while newer or recently renovated schools may already have modern equipment, said Kizito Wijenje, executive director of APS Capital Master Plan.

Along with the improved hardware and technology comes updated protocols and procedures, training for school staff, partnerships with local, state and federal law enforcement, and an increased police presence on campuses, said APS Police Chief Steve Gallegos.

APS has an armed police force. Some officers are assigned to schools while others serve as field officers responding to incidences as needed. In addition, the district has many unarmed security guards at its schools.

It's a multi-pronged approach to keeping APS students and staff safe, Gallegos said. 

The chief joined Wijenje, Superintendent Raquel Reedy and Chief Operations Officer Scott Elder during a news conference on Tuesday, Feb. 20, to address school safety concerns in light of the mass shooting at a high school in Florida.

Reedy added that students, staff, parents and the community play a key role in keeping schools safe.

"As a community, we have to work together to keep everyone safe," the superintendent said. "If you hear something, see something, read something -- report it. We need to talk to our children and help them understand that is not snitching. It's heroic to come forward."

Elder said it is a challenge to make schools both inviting and welcoming as well as safe and secure.

"It's a delicate balance that is part of a national conversation," he said.

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