The Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 is rolling out security upgrades for the coming school year.
The upgrades come after the district applied for and received two state grants totaling about $440,000.
“Everything in education seems like it’s encompassing more things,” said Superintendent Lori Haukeness. “That’s what it is with safety – how do we keep our students safe?”
Earlier this year, the district applied for and received the School Access for Emergency Response and the School Security Disbursement grants.
One of the changes is the Raptor Visitor Management school security system that will be put in place at all campuses. Through the Raptor system, visitors will have to submit their driver’s license at the front desk, which will then perform a sort of background check, screening for sex offenders and notifying staff of child custody violations.
So far, there have not been any instances of someone entering a school without the knowledge of school staff, Haukeness said.
“But there are times that we may have a custody issue and someone may want to come and check out a student that they basically legally aren’t supposed to,” she said. “We keep a paper copy of restraining orders, all of that. The nice thing with this, though, is this is going to be completely automated. And so it will be very quick.”
More details will be shared at Back to School Night, she said.
Cortez schools also recently invested in new radios and a “bridging” system, in which school staff can immediately communicate with first responders from the Cortez Police Department, Cortez Fire Department and Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office.
In terms of physical construction work, several of the district’s elementary schools are being redesigned with safety considerations in mind.
New entryways and foyers situated in the front of the schools will ensure that office staff can greet and screen all school visitors who come by.
“The elementaries are in the final phases of being remodeled,” said Jamie Haukeness, Kemper Elementary principal and director of maintenance and security, at the July 23 school board meeting.
As part of this final phase, classroom doors at Kemper, Mesa, and Manaugh elementaries are also being upgraded for security.
“These are new fire-rated, solid-core classroom doors that are almost two inches thick and have a much smaller window in them,” Principal Haukeness said in an email to The Journal.
“They will be installed on steel door frames, which will be a dramatic improvement from the previous wooden doorjambs and doors.”
The grant funds, however, can’t be used toward salaries for school resource officers.
Currently, the district has the equivalent of about 1.5 school resource officers, said Superintendent Haukeness.
The Sheriff’s Office also supports the district with a part-time deputy who patrols the outer rural schools.
Moving forward, the district would like to hire additional SROs, Haukeness said.
“The board has voted to go for a mill levy override, and part of the request there is to be able to put a full-time SRO in the middle school, a full-time SRO in the high school,” she said.
“And then have an SRO part-time director to coordinate things.”