Las Cruces Public Schools Takes Action Amid Nationwide Security Concerns
A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate)
School officials recommend parents and children review videos and information online about dealing with active shooters and other school emergencies.
Keeping schools safe is a hot button issue right now, and Las Cruces Public Schools Safety and Security Director Todd Gregory says it’s truly a community effort.
“All of us have to have that in the back of our minds, to keep kids safe,” says Todd, a Las Cruces native who spent 21 years with the Las Cruces Police Department before becoming LCPS security director 12 years ago.
During Todd’s tenure with LCPS, the school district has spent millions of dollars in voter-approved bond funds designing and building safer Las Cruces schools, like the city’s newest high school, Centennial, and middle school, Mesa; and upgrading security at many older schools.
LCPS’ $50 million bond issue, passed by 90 percent of participating voters in February 2018, included $5.5 million to enhance security at schools, including additional intercoms, fences and gates, security cameras, more secure school entrance, and infrastructure improvements to emergency telephone and internet systems.
The 2018 bond included funds to create security-card access at eight elementary schools, as well as safety lighting in the Mayfield High School parking lot and security fencing at Picacho and Vista middle schools.
“Schools are still open for business,” Todd notes, “but we want to control access as much as possible.” The ultimate goal is to create an inner and an outer perimeter at each school. The bond will also provide funds to remodel MacArthur Elementary School so that anyone who enters the school must stop at the front office to gain access.
Like MacArthur, Hermosa Heights Elementary was built in the 1950s. $3.5 million in recent renovations at Hermosa Heights included adding security doors in the entrance lobby. Controlling front-lobby access is the goal for every school, Todd says, adding, “A lot of schools are done but we’re still finishing some.”
Safety will take another big step forward as the new school year gets underway this fall, as LCPS, for the first time, places security guards at all its elementary schools. It also will add a mobile patrol unit that will respond to school alarms districtwide and keep an eye on all schools, helping to prevent vandalism and break-ins. “This year, we’re taking that extra step to help schools,” Todd explains.
There are already armed school resource officers at local middle and high schools, paid for in a partnership among LCPS, the City of Las Cruces, and the Town of Mesilla. LCPS has no plans to arm teachers or administrators, only law enforcement professionals.
Because of school shootings across the country, education has entered a new, more security conscious era. Schools likely will never return to the way they were not that many years ago when school safety meant a monthly fire drill. Today, it includes lockdown drills and training to help staff and students prepare for a security crisis on school grounds, should it occur, including an active shooter.
“It can happen any time, anywhere. That’s why we stress to parents and the community to prepare for it,” Todd adds.
Todd recommends that parents review A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) or run, hide, fight training on the internet with their children. (Look for YouTube videos and information about emergency training on many websites.)
While he understands the fear that parents and students feel, Todd says, “Schools are still the safest place to be when you look at the data and statistics.” And, what’s good for neighborhood schools, he adds, is good for the families who live in those neighborhoods.
“Schools reflect what’s going on in our community. We’re not a bubble; we’re part of that community.”
LCPS also takes violence on school campuses very seriously, including students bringing weapons onto school grounds and bullying. Staff and faculty also work closely with local law enforcement to deal with threats of school violence.
In addition to helping students and staff deal with security issues, Todd says it’s his job “to make the whole community prepared to keep schools safe.” And, while recent events in other parts of the country have focused the public’s attention on school safety, it’s not a new concept for LCPS.
“It’s an ongoing process,” Todd, a long-time volunteer with the New Mexico Mounted Patrol, says. “We’re always trying to improve. I enjoy what I do. Commitment to the community has always been strong in me. I’m committed to serve.”
Todd Gregory can be reached at 575-527-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on school safety, visit lcps.k12.nm.us/departments/operations/safety-and-security. Click on “Helpful Links” in the upper right-hand corner for information on emergency planning, fire drills, weather preparedness, and more. You will also find links on that page to safety handbooks and tips.