Carlsbad Municipal Schools focused on upgrading safety measures at its public schools and undertaking regular active shooting drills as precautions in the wake of the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas in May.
Carlsbad Municipal Schools (CMS), the City of Carlsbad Police, Carlsbad Fire Department and the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office worked together to plan for any active shooter situation at any school in Carlsbad.
“We have school shooter drills on a rotating basis at our schools. We most recently did one at P.R. Leyva (Carlsbad Intermediate School) and we have one scheduled at the High School just before the start of school,” said CMS Superintendent Dr. Gerry Washburn.
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He said CMS was evaluating evacuation plans for each school and determined what was needed to make sure plans were seamless and efficient.
“We are not going to announce what the evacuation sites are until we actually have to evacuate a school for security reasons. We will be updating agreements with churches, the city, and other entities to get those sites in place,” Washburn said.
Washburn, Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage, Carlsbad Police Shane Skinner and Carlsbad Fire Department Chief Richard Lopez participated in a town hall meeting in June to speak on the issue with parents and community members.
School safety concerns across the United States were raised after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos walked into Robb Elementary School May 22 in Uvalde, Texas with several firearms. The shooting resulted in the death of 19 students and two teachers.
“If it happened here, we are prepared to respond,” Cage said. “We’re going to respond properly and in a specific manner.”
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Carlsbad Police Chief Shane Skinner said officers from his department were trained to deal with any kind of active shooter situation.
“Our officers have learned from the tragic events of the past (that) time is definitely not our ally in these situations. We have to operate at a high level of speed,” he said.
Skinner said Carlsbad police understand the coordination needed with different agencies dealing with an active shooter.
“There’s a lot of moving parts to that. I would say our department, Eddy County Sheriff’s Office and surrounding departments need to understand you’re going to have agencies like the Artesia Police Department, Loving Police Department and New Mexico State Police we all have a vested interest in saving innocent lives,” he said.
Skinner said all Eddy County law agencies train together for different emergency scenarios including active shooters.
“Here in southeastern New Mexico we do better together working in a vacuum,” he said.
Washburn said CMS had other precautions in place at some schools in Carlsbad with extra safety features.
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“The safety upgrades that we have put in our new schools will limit entry to a single point and once in an individual does not have access to the classrooms,” he said.
“Classrooms all have automatically locking doors that require keys. Our classroom walls have been hardened to keep someone from shooting through them,” Washburn said.
He said CMS used cameras and instant notification to alert emergency dispatchers should someone try to force their way into a school.
Cage said communication was key in not only law enforcement notification but also for parents and the general public.
Washburn said CMS could use their Thrillshare emergency message system to send out phone calls, text messages and emails.
He said CMS was in the process of implementing the Rave Safety Notification System to expedite notification to law enforcement.
“This would trigger our other notification processes,” Washburn said.
Cage said the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office would like to implement active shooter plans for the Artesia Public Schools and Loving Municipal Schools.
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“Then we all get together and I think all the schools and administrations should be in lock step talking to one another and working with one another,” he said.
Washburn said CMS was committed to making schools safe for students and parents.
“In addition to hardening our school sites we are exploring how to put armed retired law enforcement officers at our sites as guards. We are also focused on doing everything we can to address the social/emotional issues that often lead to these tragedy’s,” he said.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.