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AZTEC SCHOOLS SEEK HELP FROM CITY

 

April 13, 2018

Orange line represents proposed fencing at AHS.

Aztec Municipal Schools Superintendent, Kirk Carpenter, presented two proposals to the City Commission at the April 10, 2018 Meeting. He sought full funding from the City of Aztec for a second Resource Officer (RO) and the closing of Zia Street, which runs through the campus.

Stating that it's common statewide for cities to pay for Resource Officers, Carpenter said, "We don't want to cut any officers from the existing police force, the new officer would be entirely housed at the high school. Currently the City and Schools do a 60/40 split to fund the one RO, but the concern is that if the 'floating officer' is called upon at another school, Aztec High would be unprotected. He said, "some districts our size have three RO's. We just have to look across the country at the sad state society's in."

School board member and local businessman, Ryan Lane, spoke to the Commission, stating, "The reality is our school was built as an educational facility---not built with the idea that we had to defend it against lethal force. We're looking at practical ways we can make a difference now, and we believe this is one of those issues. He stressed the importance of having an RO "on the ground at all times at Aztec High School". He asserted that if one took the "pulse of the City---you would find support for this---immediate and practical way to provide more safety."

The Superintendent spoke again stating, "It goes without saying it's a 'new normal' at our high school...and a 'new normal' for our community. It's something that is necessary. We added new security; we added a police officer up there---because we care about our kids and want them to be as comfortable as possible." He expressed pride for the students who went to Washington D.C. for the 'March for Our Lives' event, but said it was "sad when you watch them on TV and they say, 'we just don't feel the same'---it just breaks your heart---and we need to answer the call".

During questioning, Commissioner Sipe raised the possiblity of employing "back to work/former officers, already trained", and the need to talk with legislators, in that regard. Carpenter mentioned "School marshals on campus and more armed personnel and the "lobbying of legislators to change the laws". He testified once in Santa Fe and is going back to do so again on the 23rd of April. And he alluded to the 'Community Task Force', which includes close work with Aztec Police Chief Mike Heal, who has also testified at the State Capital.

The closing of Zia Street was addressed as, "The first step in deciding what to do with the rest of the campus". Carpenter said the high school is "spread out like a college campus with a lot of open space". The proposal will likely "take a study", he said, and plans are to involve an architect in the overall process to better secure the campus. Another option is to close Zia only during school hours. Mayor Stover, who works at the high school and is regularly assigned to the Zia Street entrance, asked if the closing of Zia would result in a 'closed campus'. Mr. Carpenter said, "We're not equipped yet to have a completely closed campus, but this will allow us to secure more exit and entry points". The Mayor said, "It's a miracle someone hasn't been run over", at that location. The irrigation ditch is a factor and "new fencing arrangements" will be required, with the long-range goal to secure the entire campus. He said, regarding the proposed projects, "bonds will be needed for funding".

Once the new policies and configurations are in place every car will need a sticker. Students now have badges, which the Superintendent said, "are not real popular with our students".

 
 

Reader Comments
(1)

farsight writes:

I understand that there are concerns about securing the campus, but the fencing is a double-edged sword. How do we get OUT if needed?? Also, who will monitor each of those gates? We NEED to have a plan, but we need to look beyond short-term, limited solutions to include longer-term, and wider issues.

 
 
 

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