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District adding more metal detectors with expansion of pilot program

October 2, 2018

More students will go through metal detectors and have their bags checked each morning at Thomas Jefferson High School this school year.

The district is increasing its metal detector pilot program to test capacity and efficiency.

School board members on Aug. 28, approved the purchase of two additional Garrett 6500i walk-through metal detectors from Markl Supply Co. at a CoStar price of $7,548.

The board also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Jefferson Federation of Teachers to create four metal detector monitor positions. Four teachers will start their days 15 minutes early to search bags looking for things such as guns, knives, tobacco and certain medicines.

“It’s another measure of security,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said.

The district in April began testing a pilot program that placed one metal detector at the high school.

Students from one bus, or the school’s car riders or walkers, were selected each day to go through the metal detector and have their bags checked prior to entering the school. The individual bus or group of students were pulled at random using a computer-generated app.

This allowed district officials to begin collecting data to determine what settings are needed on the metal detector.

They also were able to determine efficiency while developing plans for how to handle security at the new high school, expected to open later this school year. The ultimate goal is to have every student go through a metal detector and have their bags checked at the new high school, Ghilani said. However, district leaders are trying to determine if that is cost effective and feasible.

“We heard from our students that they feel safer when we’re doing it,” said Scott Milburn, assistant superintendent of secondary education.

The expanded pilot program will test capacity to determine if metal detectors walk-throughs and bag checks could be done for the entire school without lines getting too backed up.

Last year, for the first time in his career, Ghilani began hearing from students that when they get up in the morning, they think about being safe in school.

“If them becoming safe becomes a barrier for them learning, then I think we need to do whatever we can to make them feel safe,” Ghilani said. “Metal detectors are a small investment to help with safety and lower their anxiety.”

The superintendent said district leaders understand there’s no way to guarantee safety in a school, but if there’s an opportunity to provide added levels of security, they’re going to take it.

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