Dear RRPS Community,
I spent yesterday afternoon and evening watching the terrible event unfold in Uvalde, Texas. This morning parents across the district, state and nation woke up wondering whether or not they should send their children to school. This senseless and terrifying act overshadows what should be an exciting time for our children and schools.
It is hard coming up with the right words to share with you today. How often must we send these messages sharing our grief and thoughts for those impacted and condemning the unconscionable acts that take the lives of our young ones? It weighs heavily on us. Our hearts are breaking for the community of Uvalde and the many families impacted by yet another horrifying and senseless tragedy.
One question keeps coming up and pouring in from our parents and community--what are you doing to keep our students and staff members safe? This can no longer be a question just for school districts. We cannot do this alone.
We need students, parents, staff and community members to continue to report any concerns to administrators as soon as they arise. Speak up if you know about a weapon on campus, if a threat is made, if someone is experiencing mental health issues, or if you have information about other possible safety issues on school campuses. We assure you that every concern we receive is taken seriously. We need you to be a voice for our schools. Urge lawmakers to make school safety a priority and provide school districts with necessary legislation and resources to combat the school safety crisis. We need you to take student discipline and concerns seriously. Support us when we work to address issues of safety. Please keep your guns locked up.
Rio Rancho Public Schools has worked hard over the last few years to put safety measures in place to protect our students and staff and it continues to be a top priority.
- All of our schools in Rio Rancho have crisis response plans in place that address a full range of emergency situations. We do regular lockdown drills in all of our schools to prepare for all kinds of emergencies, including active shooter situations. We partner with local law enforcement and safety experts.
- Our schools are equipped with access control, security cameras and our Raptor System which is an integrated school safety software that enables schools to screen visitors, track volunteers, report on drills, respond to emergencies, and reunite families.
- Gunshot detection systems are in use at our comprehensive high schools and our newer schools.
- We have an outstanding safety and security team that are highly trained. The vast majority are former law enforcement, corrections or military. We have both armed and unarmed officers.
- We provide yearly training for parents on various safety topics through our Parent University including Gun Safety.
Your children have probably heard the news about yesterday’s event, whether from television, radio, adults or their friends. This news may be especially disturbing to them. Here are a few suggestions for helping to make students feel safe:
- Turn off or monitor the television and internet/social media. Endless news coverage is likely to heighten anxiety.
- Maintain a normal routine.
- Stick to facts. Answer questions factually.
- Remain calm and reassuring. Students take their cues from their parents and adults.
- Be a good listener and observer. Pay attention to changes in behavior.
- Take care of yourself. You are better able to help your students if you are coping well. If you are anxious or upset, your students are more likely to be so as well.
Finally, be kind to each other. When tragedies like this happen, people need someone or something to blame in order to make sense of how the unthinkable could happen. People start pointing fingers at each other and arguing over what caused the horrific act. Instead of arguing and pointing fingers, come together on behalf of our children. Now, more than ever, they need us.
Tomorrow (Thursday, May 26) will be our last day of school for all schools. We will not have a half day on Friday for elementary schools as originally planned. Our elementary school instructional hours already exceed the Public Education Department requirements, and will not be impacted by ending the school year one day early. All schools will be open throughout the morning on Friday for make-up exams as scheduled, textbook returns, etc. The S.A.F.E. program will be canceled on Friday.
We will continue to do everything we can to protect our students and staff, and we thank you for your continued support of our schools.
Dr. V. Sue Cleveland
Rio Rancho Public Schools