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N4T Investigators: Reading, writing, readiness - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Reading, writing, readiness

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Tucson - The principal of Maldonado Elementary School and its safety officer are about to see how ready students and staff are in case an intruder gets on campus. They're conducting a hard lockdown drill and allowed the News 4 Tucson Investigators to be there.

"Hard lockdown, hard lockdown, shut yourself in, Principal Eva Almonte shouts at the beginning.

Students and teachers are told to stay in their classrooms with the doors locked no matter what, not to let anyone in, even if they identify themselves. Because the person knocking on the door could be the attacker. 

The school safety also has the fire alarms sound. That's a ploy some intruders use to try to get people in the hallways. Staff wants everyone to remain in their rooms and ignore the alarms. 

After four minutes, the drill is over. It's one of the minimum of two lockdown drills all TUSD schools are required to do every year.

We asked Principal Almonte, "Do you feel safe here and should the kids, teachers, and their parents feel safe?" Absolutely, she said. "And after today's drill, even more so."

Since 17 people were killed during the shooting at a Florida high school in February, TUSD has been reviewing everything to do with security. It already has implemented a "Stop, look and listen" policy. "We're asking during fire drills, teachers take a few seconds to listen, to hear, see anything. Especially if they're not scheduled [to be in a classroom]," says Sam Martin, one of the 19 armed school safety officers patrolling TUSD's 89 schools. 

President Trump has said he supports arming teachers with guns. Principal Maldonado disagrees. We asked her if she wants her teachers armed. "No, not at all," she said. We asked why. She said, "What is somebody is to come and get their arms? What would happen? Then we have a serious potential harm on our site."

The Superintendent, Dr. Gabriel Trujillo agrees about not arming teachers, but he can only recommend items to the board. He recommends other security measures be added.

"We need to have a heavy duty investment in security infrastructure, secure fencing around our schools, keyless entry boxes, high-quality surveillance systems that identify intruders or anybody coming on the campus," Dr. Trujillo told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Only about a third of all TUSD school has the security system that Trujillo wants and Maldonado has: keyless entry boxes and cameras. The schools do have magnet strips that keep doors locked. It was demonstrated by safety officer Martin. He said, "Any time a teacher feels maybe there are some loud noises outside of her classrooms, maybe she feels a little bit nervous. All she has to do is open the door, put the magnet strip out, and turn around, and put it on the inside, and she's locked."

Dr. Trujillo added, "I think schools by their very nature are already soft targets, but I think with a lot of the safety measures in play and a highly effective school safety team, I think parents could feel good about sending their kids to our schools."

Dr. Trujillo is in the process of putting together a list of security items he will present to the school board in the near future. Whether TUSD will have the money to add everything he asks for remains to be seen, but as school officials say, "You can't put a price on the safety of students and staff."

If you have a story you would like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

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