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EPISD unveils new Bond 2016-funded safety and security programs

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(TOM LEA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL -- April 1, 2019) — Visitors to any El Paso Independent School District elementary campus will have to go through an extra layer of security before even setting foot inside the front office, all thanks to newly safety and security equipment that is part of the EPISD Bond 2016 modernization program.

The new Secure Entry system requires that all visitors use a camera by the front door of each school to show their identification card and state the purpose of their visit. Once a District employee determines the visitor has legitimate business on campus, he or she will be allowed into the front office where their identification card will be checked against a sex-offender registry database.

The Bond 2016-funded upgrades are part of the District’s continued efforts to create safe spaces for learning. 

“Parents expect us to provide safe and secure environments for their children, and thanks to the Bond have one of the best systems available at our elementary schools,” said Manny Chavira, EPISD’s Safe and Secure Schools Manager. “By providing these extra layers of security, we allow our employees to challenge any visitor that has no reason to be on our campus.” 

Any visitor deemed ineligible to visit a school will be met by an administrator to determine further action.  The new system also works in conjunction with the EPISD Police and systems being used by other regional law-enforcement agencies, who can respond to a call if needed.  

“This is the fabric of society now and we have to take these extra measures to make sure that we are ensuring the safety and security of our students and the faculty,” Chavira said. 

Tom Lea principal Michelle Casillas likes security the new system gives staff and parents. 

“We know exactly who is in the building at all times,” she said. “It gives our parents that sense of security in knowing that our kids are safe, that there isn't anyone not authorized to be on campus. If we need to, we can call or text police services for assistance. They respond very quickly and been very supportive.” 

At Tom Lea, parents arriving on campus pulled as they approached the cameras, ready for when the staff would ask. 

“I like fact no one can get into my daughter’s school without proper identification,” said Ramon Reyes. “It makes you feel a lot more secure about my daughter.

Reyes finds the process to enter easy for parents but might not so easy for someone who doesn’t belong. 

“It’s not a hassle to get your ID out. It’s for a better piece of mind,” he said. 

The new system is part of the $750,000 voters approved for safety and security measures in the Bond 2016 modernization program.  All elementary schools have the new Secure Entry system, and the District is now working on expanding it to middle and high schools.

EPISD Police also provided tours of its new mobile command center during the demonstration.  The former bookmobile turned police station on wheels is equipped with phones, workspace and computers that can tap into the campus security cameras during emergencies. Giant screens lining the wall showed areas of the campus captured from the cameras in and outside the school and on the mobile unit and the blueprint of the building.

“The mobile unit gives us a place where all of our public safety partners can come in to create a unified command establish from beginning to end of an emergency incident,” Chavira said. “The security upgrades and the new mobile command center are all tools we have to ensure that we keep our students and staff safe and secure and can act quickly in the event of an emergency. 

Story by Reneé de Santos
Photos by Leonel Monroy