The Person County Board of Education voted to install a weapons detection system and add new cameras to the district’s two middle schools and Person High School during its meeting last Thursday.
The items were presented to the board by PCS Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Dr. Ron Anthony and approved unanimously.
According to Anthony, the weapons detection system will be the same that is implemented at several districts in the state, including Guilford, Mecklenburg and Johnston and with the same software used at Bank of America Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
In Anthony’s presentation, he said that the system’s current configuration is focused on detecting metal circles, such as bombs or handguns, but can also be adjusted to detect smaller weapons and even e-cigarettes.
He said that there will be two lanes for weapon detection at Person High School, one at the main entrance and another at the gym. There will also be two lanes at Southern Middle School, one at the main entrance and another near the car rider-line, while Northern Middle will have one lane at the main entrance.
Anthony told The Courier-Times that there wasn’t an incident in a Person County school that led to this weapons detection system being implemented, but that the district is looking to be proactive.
“Sadly, firearms are being found often in schools across the country nowadays,” Anthony said. “We wanted to be proactive instead of reactive. We want to make the environment in our schools safe and have the tools for our administrators that can move (students) through quickly so they won’t miss that time at breakfast in the morning or in first period where we’d lose instructional time. We’ll be able to scan our kids and get them in and out quickly and safely.”
Anthony said that weapons detection system would have the capability of scanning more than 2,000 people per hour. He described the scanner as the type that shoppers would go through at a department store with a tablet where a school employees or school resource officer would monitor students or visitors as they enter the school.
If there is an alarm, the person manning the lane would send the student or visitor for a secondary search. Anthony said that the system is so precise that the image on the tablet would show the exact location on the body or bookbag that triggered the alarm.
The system will be leased for four years at a cost of $486,456 that is being paid for through a school safety grant that the district was awarded in October.
Superintendent Dr. Rodney Peterson said during the presentation that “we were told it would make better sense” to lease instead of buy because of frequent advances in technology and Anthony added that the lease would give the district the opportunity to have a maintenance plan. Peterson said that the district will have a software license that will need to be updated yearly.
The board also approved purchasing new cameras for many of the district’s schools and vape detectors in the middle schools and Person High School.
“Vaping is becoming an epidemic,” Anthony said. “We’ve had instances of vape pens and electronic cigarettes found on our campuses. To help our administrators combat that and get their time back so they won’t have to investigate so long, we’re adding the cameras and vape detectors so they’ll be able to see who’s coming in and out and question those students and get to the bottom of it.”
Anthony told The Courier-Times that he anticipates the weapons detection system in place by June and the cameras installed by the start of next school year.
Joint meeting set for next Wednesday
The Person County Board of Education and the Person County Board of Commissioners will hold a joint meeting next Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the county auditorium at the Person County Office Building.
According to the public notice sent out by the county, “the purpose of this Special Joint Meeting is to discuss the needs and funding of Person County Schools.”
This joint meeting was asked for by the Person County Board of Education during last Thursday’s work session.
The two boards met jointly last October.
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