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Montezuma-Cortez school district sends out school safety letter after January incident

Kemper Elementary School was placed on secure status on Jan. 31 after shots were heard in the area. After about 20 minutes, the school resumed normal operations. Journal file photo
Kemper Elementary was put in secure status on Jan. 31

After Kemper Elementary School being put on secure status on Jan. 31 because of reports of shots fired in the area, Assistant Superintendent Eddie Ramirez sent out a letter to Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 school district parents about the district’s safety response system.

In his letter, Ramirez spoke of a recent event that “tested our safety response system.”

He noted that while the system in place allowed school leaders and emergency personnel to respond quickly and efficiently to the need for secure status, he noted that they are always “evaluating our system for way to improve in areas of deterrence and response.”

“The safety and security of students and staff in our schools and facilities is of utmost priority,” Ramirez said. “Because threats change over time, we continually evaluate the safety of our campuses and procedures for responding to the threats.”

Though he didn’t go into detail about all the changes, he said some could be made immediately, while some of the others will take more time and planning to properly implement.

He noted that some of the changes are confidential, and others will be “highly visible.”

He also prepared parents for some changes they will begin to see over the next few weeks and months.

“You will notice some of the changes, and your child will begin to see its effects,” he said.

One of the changes Ramirez referenced include an “increased” use of weapon detectors that students, staff and visitors walk through as they come into the school or on to campus.

“These portable detectors will allow our security teams to use them at our schools to ensure additional safety measures,” Ramirez said. “Please be patient as implementing these new procedures may impact student arrival patterns.”

He added that if there are any other changes, the child’s campus will notify parents of those changes.

Superintendent Tom Burris also referenced the new weapons detectors in a recent call with The Journal, saying that these weapons detectors were top of the line and meant to swiftly detect a weapon in a person’s bag or in their clothes.

He said tests would be taking place before the detectors are in full use at the area schools.

Ramirez added that the “random increased use” of these weapons detectors are just one of the improvements that parents and the community will see as the district works to provide additional security and protection to its students and staff.

He reminded parents and others who read the letter that prohibited weapons on any of the district’s campuses was strictly prohibited, urging parents to review the district’s Student Code of Conduct or District’s Board Policy with their children.

“Please discuss with them the severe consequences of bringing a prohibited weapon to school,” he said. “Consequences can include severe disciplinary actions, including expulsion. Consequences can also include criminal prosecution. We will use every legal tool we have to protect our students, staff and visitors. That means that if a student or other person chooses to violate the law by bringing a prohibited weapon on campus, we will ask law enforcement to prosecute the violation to the fullest extent allowed by law.”

He ended the letter by reminding readers that the district has the Safe2Tell system in place, where students or parents can submit anonymous reports on suspicious activities, bullying, theft and more.

Anonymous reports can be made via call or text at (877) 542-7233 or online at www.safe2tellco.org.

“Notice it? Report it! It takes all of us working together to keep our schools safe places for learning,” Ramirez said.

The Cortez Police Department chief, Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, Montezuma County emergency coordinator, Cortez Fire chief, Cortez EMS, Colorado Department of Public Safety, Towaoc Police Department chief, city of Cortez PIO and the Montezuma County PIO were all copied on the letter.