Education

Rio Rancho schools discusses increased safety, security measures

RIO RANCHO, N.M. - Rio Rancho Public Schools is reaching out to parents with a message about what it's doing for student safety.

It comes as the Parkland, Florida, school shooting has been followed with threats of violence at schools across New Mexico.

Thursday, more than 100 people packed the Rio Rancho Public Schools administration building to discuss school safety. Parents, students, teachers and staff took part in the question-answer meeting led by district staff.

The group was also joined by Rio Rancho police officers and court officials.

Watching from the crowd, a mother of a 10-year old Rio Rancho student, Ashley Rosales, said the recent events have concerned her.

"I want to support my community, but more so I want to make sure my daughter's protected at school," said Rosales. "I just want to know how I can be involved."

When asked if she's been assured that the district doing enough to protect student safety, Rosales said she believes they're doing "all they can."

"But we really can't say because kids are taking (threats) to school, so... I don't think so," said Rosales.

Superintendent of Rio Rancho Schools, Dr. V. Sue Cleveland, says the safety discussion has "weighed on (district staff) hearts for the last few weeks."

"It is something that we as a community needs to come together and... try to work on," said Cleveland.

At Thursday's meeting, the district described a multi-layer security effort. One of the biggest efforts toward of student safety has been with physical upgrades to buildings, according to the district.

"We put bollards at the front of every school so they cannot be accessed with an automobile or a truck," said Cleveland.

The district's added more than 100 security cameras at schools recently. All of their schools are now equipped with centralized door locking, or "access control" technology.

By the summer, Rio Rancho Schools says all of its school building it will have "air locks" - or secured lobbies, to keep anyone from just walking directly into school.

Another element toward safety is continued special training with their security staff. The district says its security staff is comprised mainly of former law enforcement officers. Some have military experience. They, along with district staff, receive active shooter training.

"We're very very concerned about what we term active shooter or active killer," said Michael Baker, Chief Operations Officer for RRPS.

Cleveland also encouraged parents and students to be aware and report concerns.

"What as parents, what as families can we do?" asked Cleveland. "We tell our students is to tell someone immediately what you know and what you hear, because you are really, our kids are really our first line of defense, because they hear things before anyone else hears them, and we need to share that with a trusted adult."

There are some upgrades that parent say they'd like to see.

"I think metal detectors before the kids go in, I mean most of our kids don't take things like that to school, so it wouldn't hurt any of us to check bags," said Rosales.

On hand at Thursday's meeting, Rio Rancho Police told the crowd that its officers practice active shooter training every year.


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