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Some El Paso, Las Cruces school districts look to revamp security plans for campuses

KFOX El Paso logo KFOX El Paso 5/27/2022 Fallon Fischer
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School districts in El Paso and Las Cruces spoke about their security plans a day after a gunman killed students and teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday.

Note: The details below are a portion of the security measures in place at schools. Not all security features and plans could be shared due to safety concerns.

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El Paso Independent School District: 

  • Controlled access and controlled entry to schools using doorbells
  • Background checks for visitors 
  • Surveillance cameras and lighting system
  • EPISD police department
  • Campus training for students and staff

“We have heightened security on campuses. We have security officers and certified police officers. We have 85 campuses and our police is not that large we can not have a police officer on every campus but every campus is monitored and every campus is patrolled by a certified police officer or a security guard that’s on campus. A lot of times those people are not seen, that is by design," said EPISD spokesperson Gustavo Reveles.

Reveles added that EPISD continues to update its safety plan and security measures.

He also encourages students, staff and the community to report any incident or suspicious activity to the administration or police.

"We want to reassure parents that the El Paso ISD takes the safety of students very seriously. It’s a priority for us we know that without a safe and secure learning space and environment our students cant learn," said Reveles.

Ysleta Independent School District:

  • Sign-in cameras
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Safety vestibules (at the main entrance in which visitors must enter the administration area prior to admission to school)
  • Secure access for exterior doors
  • Middle and high schools have security officers present every day. Security officers may patrol areas around schools as a precaution to be on the lookout for crime.
  • High Schools have El Paso Police Department resource officers
  • Students and staff practice active shooter, lockdown and lockout drills

YISD Superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre released a video on Wednesday highlighting some of the additional security measures that have been put into place following the shooting in Uvalde.

"Let me assure you. Today and for the rest of the school year heightened and vigilant police and security presence districtwide," De La Torre stated.

He also said all school building perimeter doors and classroom doors will be locked and the grounds will be continuously monitored.

“We feel secure and confident in the measures that we have in place in our school to keep our kids safe so we highly encourage parents to continue to send their kids to school," said James Vasquez, associate superintendent for student support services at YISD.

Vasquez said that administrators will be reviewing safety, security and disciplinary measures at a conference during the summer.

“We encourage our administrators to turn some of the information over to parents as well just to provide that sense of security for them," Vasquez.

Socorro Independent School District:

  • Exterior and entry doors locked
  • Entrances throughout the building are monitored and secured
  • Buzzer system in place for visitors 
  • Hall pass system for visitors, who then go through a screening process before gaining access to campuses
  • 59 SISD police officers deployed to all campuses. Officers work with El Paso Police Department in emergency situations
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"We just want parents to know that we take safety and security of our schools very seriously. We continue to train and drill our staff and students and we have a police force on-site that we’ve since redeployed to make sure that we have a presence on all our facilities," said James Nunn, coordinator of emergency management for Socorro ISD. “We are going to reevaluate our security measures going forward."

SISD also has a WATCH D.O.G.S. program that is expected to relaunch next school year, Nunn added.

The K-12 program, invites fathers, grandfathers, uncles, or other father figures to volunteer at least one day all day at their child's/student's school during the school year.

"WatchDOG volunteers perform a variety of tasks during their volunteer day including monitoring the school entrance, assisting with unloading and loading of buses and cars, monitoring the lunch room, or helping in the classroom with a teacher's guidance by working with small groups of students on homework, flashcards, or spelling," according to SISD's website.

Nunn said there is a background check protocol in place for all volunteers. He added that the program was put on pause during the pandemic but is active at some schools.

He said those interested in the program should contact their schools next year.

Las Cruces Public Schools

  • Secure entrances at schools including vestibules
  • Secure check-in system including background checks at all campuses including central office
  • School resource officers at middle and high schools that can be deployed to elementary schools if needed
  • Students and staff practice crisis drills
  • Fencing around school property

Kelly Jameson, the public information officer for LCPS, said that the secure check in-system at schools is connected to law enforcement. 

It is also the same system EPISD uses.

"So when you come into school we ask for your I-D, not only to verify who you say you are, but so that we can ensure that you are not wanted by law enforcement, that you’ve not been flagged as somebody who probably does not need to be in our buildings," said Jameson.

If a visitor is flagged they can be denied entrance to the school, Jameson said. There is a protocol in place to deal with people who are denied which Jameson could not elaborate on for safety reasons.

Jameson said she encourages school and community members to say something if they see something that is suspicious or could be perceived as a threat.

“Awareness is our most important tool against violence in our campuses and at our schools," Jameson said.

LCPS works with law enforcement to monitor potential threats.

This summer school leaders will likely go over communication policies and practices and how they come together in event of a crisis, Jameson added.

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