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APS fortifying security at district schools


Albuquerque Public Schools officials on Tuesday provided a status update on ongoing security measures at district schools. From left, Capital Master Plan Executive Director Kizito Wijenje, APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy, and Chief Operations Officer Scott Elder. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools is currently fortifying security at district schools with a variety of measures that include installing and updating digital cameras, restricting entry and access with card key technology, and installing intrusion alarms.

All of this technology is being connected to the APS Police Department’s dispatch and command center, which is also being upgraded.

APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy, Chief Operations Officer Scott Elder, Capital Master Plan Executive Director Kizito Wijenje and APS Police Chief Steve Gallegos led a news conference Tuesday to update the public about the ongoing steps being taken to ensure students are safe at their schools.

“We understand that horrific acts of violence, such as that witnessed in Florida last week, inevitably causes us to wonder about our children’s safety,” Reedy said. “While we can’t make guarantees in the world in which we live in, it is our responsibility to do everything possible to protect our students, staff and community from danger.

Wijenje said that security cameras exist in all APS schools, though many are older and based on analog technology. These are being replaced with digital cameras. Schools built or updated over the last four years already have the latest in cameras, card key access and intrusion alarm technology. The remainder of APS schools should have at least some of the new technology installed within the next 18 months, he said.

In addition, APS works with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to regularly update each school’s on-site safety plans, processes and procedures, which include training for school lock-downs, shelter in place and active shooter situations, said Elder. “Those plans evolve and change every year.”

The new technology allows APS to immediately respond to intrusion alarms at schools during or after school hours. “We can jump on those cameras and look at those schools from APS dispatch,” said Gallegos. Officers can be fed the floor plans to the schools over the computers in their vehicles “to give them a good idea of which part of the school the intrusion alarm is coming from.”

Further, kids who vandalize, make threats or endanger school safety are being disciplined, and when necessary their cases are being presented to the District Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution, Gallegos said.

The security upgrades to schools and the APS police dispatch and command center are being funded with $6.8 million approved in local bond and mil levy money, Elder said. In addition, the state Legislature just passed a bill to allocate $40 million among all 89 school districts statewide over the next four years to bolster security. Elder said, he anticipates that APS will get about a quarter of that money. The governor, however, has not yet signed the legislation.

Reedy reminded the public that if they or their children, see, hear or read anything that is threatening or may endanger students, schools or their communities, to inform someone — even if it might be a prank.

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