Earwood checks school district safety concerns

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Superintendent Randall Earwood fired off his first email to Socorro school leaders Friday as the tragedy in Connecticut was still unfolding. On Monday morning, he drove to all the district schools to meet with school principals and lead teachers.

“I was concerned about our students coming to school today after having watched the news,” he said.

Earwood had a meeting with administrators and Socorro Police Department deputy police chief Mike Winders on Tuesday. The discussion points cover district safety, especially police and school district joint safety plan.

Being new to the district, Earwood said he wants to hear about the safety protocols the police department has in effect, and be sure critical information, such as school floor plans, is current.

Earwood is confident Socorro schools pass the safety muster.

“As far as the safety of our students, we’re doing everything we can,” he said. “That said, I’m sure the leaders of Newtown schools thought their schools were safe, too. In fact, they had just implemented new safety procedures. There’s always unknowns you have to be leery of, but I think we’re very safe.”

At Zimmerly School, in order for anyone to get through the second tier of doors at the entrance, the school secretary has to buzz the person in, he said. That’s the only door open to the public; the other doors are locked on the outside.

“All our schools have electronic access so only those with an electronic key can get in,” he said. “All the perimeter doors are locked.”

Earwood can only recall one incident in New Mexico that involved a school shooting.

“Back in the early 1990s, two people impersonated a police officer and took a student from a Roswell school into the desert and killed him,” he said.

Earwood said that kind of tragedy cannot happen again.

“We have certain protocols in place for releasing students that ensure their safety,” he said. “If they’re minors, we don’t release children to anyone, even police officers, without parent consent.”

The only people even allowed to talk to students at a school without parental consent are New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department personnel, he said.