School shootings, threats prompt APS security changes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - As school shootings are on minds across the country, Albuquerque Public Schools isn't immune to such thoughts.

"It is an incredibly difficult time to be a parent in this country today. And I say that because I'm a parent too," said Scott Elder, Chief of Operations for APS.

In a news conference at APS headquarters on Tuesday, Elder didn't sugarcoat the fact that times have changed.

"It all began back in the '90s and it just seems to get worse and worse," he said.

New Mexico has had its fair share of tragic school shootings. Aztec High School lost two students at the end of 2017 when a former student shot up the school.

Just last week, 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland Florida.

"It is our responsibility to do everything possible to protect our students, staff and our community from danger," said APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy.

Tuesday, Reedy and other district employees said they're already implementing major security upgrades district-wide.

"Things like cameras, things like intrusion alarms, things like card access systems," said Kizito Wijenje, the Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan.

The three will be linked to the district's dispatch center so the school and police can be alerted to the threat immediately.

"We can jump on those cameras and look at the school from our dispatch to make sure what's going on," said APS Police Chief Steve Gallegos.

All the schools now have cameras, but they'll soon get better ones. All schools will also have key cards.

"It's very very beneficial, we're putting card access on mostly the exit doors," said Chief Gallegos.

Students, however, won't have keycards.

"So that people can't just come in and out of those schools unauthorized," said Gallegos.

When it comes to bringing weapons to school, APS officials say metal detectors aren't on the table. Superintendent Reedy said she doesn't want the schools to feel like a prison.

"That is not what I envision our schools becoming. Really and truly, how would that affect learning?" said Reedy.

Schools built or remodeled in the last four years already have the updated digital cameras as well as the keycard system. The district hopes in the next year-and-a-half to have digital cameras in all schools as well as a portion of the keycard system.

In 2016, voters approved $6.8 million for these changes along with a new APS Command Center. The district is also hoping the governor signs a bill that would set aside $40 million for school security upgrades around the state.

Aside from beefing up security, APS said it investigates every threat reported to them. APS said when a threat is made, parents are contacted and any student involved may be disciplined or even charged.

Chief Gallegos then said they do submit some threat cases to the District Attorney's office.

District Attorney Raul Torrez said in order to prosecute those cases, they not only have to find that a law is broken, but then find enough evidence to prosecute. At this point, he said they haven't had any such case.


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