New Mexico districts to share funding for security upgrades

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) β€” More than 220 school campuses around New Mexico will be sharing state funding for security upgrades that will range from new doors and locks to fencing and security cameras.

Forty-seven school districts applied for security improvements at 288 campuses.

Officials said during a meeting with lawmakers earlier this week in Santa Fe that most of those applications were granted following a survey of school buildings and public comment sessions that covered how parents, teachers and students would like to improve the safety of their schools.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that a total of $16 million will be doled out this year, with projects beginning as soon as December.

In community meetings, school staff, students and parents said the biggest issues for school safety were mental health and bullying.

Weeks before the 2018 legislative session, New Mexico was rocked by a deadly school shooting in Aztec. Rather than moving toward gun control or arming school personnel, lawmakers agreed to set aside $46 million over four years to improve the security of campuses around the state.

Albuquerque Public Schools got more money than any other district this year β€” a total of $3.8 million. Los Lunas and Las Cruces schools both received more than $1 million. Upgrades will also be funded in districts as remote as House, Chama and Hagerman.

The state assessed each campus that applied based on the number of security measures already in place. For example, Tucumcari Middle School had the fewest measures in place and will receive nearly $24,000 for upgrades.

The Santa Fe school district did not seek any funds this year, citing recent security upgrades paid for with voter-approved bonds.

Districts mostly asked for fences, new locks, hand-held radios and secure vestibules that allow administrators to better control the entrance to a school building.

"These are all very valid, very effective security measures," Jonathan Chamblin, director of the Public School Facilities Authority, told lawmakers.

He said most of the campuses requesting upgrades are older, with doors and windows that may be past their expected lifespan.

While the authority includes security considerations when planning new schools, some lawmakers questioned why some newer campuses, such as Del Norte High School and Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque, also have been allotted state funds. They argued that contemporary designs should have accounted for safety measures.

While the funding will only cover the costs of physical improvements, Democratic Sen. Bill Soules of Las Cruces said lawmakers should also devote more money to counselors and mental health services.

"All the things that are on the preventive side β€” they pay off every single day," he said.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com


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