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APS continuing with school security efforts

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools will use existing funds and state money to continue with school security plans after its mill levy, bond package failed in a February election. But security initiatives will take longer than expected after the loss.

About $20 million of the $900 million package, or about 2 percent, would have gone toward security, according to APS.

Security efforts ramped up at APS and districts across the country after a mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., a little more than a year ago.

But after voters struck down all of the proposed measures, APS now must push forward with protecting its schools with the money it has.

“We are leveraging existing funds and also trying to leverage state funding,” Capital Master Plan Executive Director Kizito Wijenje said at an APS committee meeting on March 4.

A lot of the district’s current security funding came from a 2016 election in which voters approved about $6 million for school safety upgrades or from legislative appropriations.

The Legislature earmarked $40 million over four years for school security. Last year, APS got just under $4 million in legislative funding for 66 schools and is planning on submitting an application again this year.

However, without the $20 million from the election, APS will have to lengthen its timeline.

“Because the funding won’t be as forthcoming, we are hoping to expedite all the standards in the next 18 months,” Wijenje said, adding this is longer than originally planned.

The district campaigned strongly for its ballot on the premise that some of the money would go to school security – a message that aligned with findings in a report commissioned by APS in November to gauge community sentiment on the election. That report put security and safety as one of “the three most convincing messages in support.”

At the committee meeting, Wijenje also updated the Board of Education on the current status of the security plan.

Wijenje said that the technical security upgrades are just part of the district’s safety initiatives.

APS has a Student Family and Community Supports Division to address the social and emotional health of kids.

“This is a really multi-functional committee we have, it’s not only about police and the people implementing the technical updates,” he said. “It’s supporting emotional health and wellbeing.”

In the 2017-18 school year, the division has conducted 909 threat assessments and 1,473 suicide assessments.

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