ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Fencing and heavy-duty doors are popping up at elementary schools around Albuquerque, closing off fields and playgrounds after hours. The new security measures are just two out of five steps Albuquerque Public Schools is taking to strengthen security throughout the district.
“That’s cameras and alarms, card access, for entrance onto our sites and buildings, we have commercial door locks on every classroom then we have fencing and gates,” said APS Capital Master Plan Executive Director, Kizito Wijenje.
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Wijenje, says the security reinforcements are all part of a school district security project that has been going on for five and a half years. The decision came after various national school incidents questioned the safety of staff and students. “The reason for doing all this is safety for our kids, safety for our staff, safety for our neighbors,” added Wijenje.
The Master Plan Executive Director says there have been issues with people hanging out or sleeping on playgrounds after hours and leaving needles and other drug paraphernalia items behind. “There’s a lot of issues with homelessness there’s a lot of issues with crime so we make sure we secure the playgrounds. Especially so that no one comes in at night or over the weekend or leaves paraphernalia,” added Wijenje.
As for where the project stands after five and a half years of security implementation? Wijenje says all APS schools have had cameras and alarms installed as well as heavy-duty doors across 5,000 classrooms throughout the district.
Now, the current step in the project is securing the perimeter of schools for the safety and wellbeing of students and staff. Over the past year or so, APS has been putting in fences and security gates at more than half of the district’s 89 elementary schools, but Wijenje says it’s complicated.
“Fencing, we have parts of sites that are done and parts of sites that are not done. It’s a resource thing,” said Wijenje.
Another problem the district faces is the joint use of school and city parks, trying to figure out where fencing can be installed while keeping school grounds closed off from public access. Neighbors are still allowed to use the fields and playgrounds after school and on weekends, but the security gates get locked at night.
The security measures will be implemented throughout all APS schools including middle and high. Which APS hopes will work as the district has had a problems in the past with vandals and thieves over the years. The entire security project has a price tag of $34 million.