D86 does homework on weapons scanning

Hinsdale High School District 86 this week began testing a pair of systems that scan for weapons as people enter facilities at the district’s two campuses.

The testing, to be conducted at various entrances during school days and at after-hours events, was announced at the district’s Jan. 12 board meeting. Security director Kurt Bluder told board members that adding such a measure would help keep students, staff and buildings safe.

“These weapons detection systems can process a large number of people quickly and are being used at venues from schools to large sports arenas,” Bluder said during his presentation. “These systems provide another layer of safety.”

Testing began Tuesday and will run through Feb. 24. Bluder said the two systems, Motorola’s Evolve Express and CEIA’s Opengate, are not intrusive and are portable for use at outdoor events as well.

“The systems utilize pillars or towers for scanning, and they do not require individuals to empty their pockets or bags,” he said, adding that students would need to remove their Chromebooks prior to scanning because they trigger the systems. “Motorola’s Evolve uses artificial intelligence and light sensors to scan for certain shapes, sizes and density. That information is then transmitted to a tablet that is being monitored by a security officer. CEIA’s Opengate system scans for ferrous non-ferrous metals, alerting on larger items containing those materials.”

Board member Debbie Levinthal, chair of the facilities committee, said school safety is a top priority for district officials.

“These (systems) are being fully vetted, not just by the security team but by the committee and looking at the implications it would have on our operations with students arriving at school,” Levinthal said.

Bluder said officials contacted other school districts and the DuPage Regional Office of Education as part of their research into possibly adding one of the systems to the district’s existing measures. The district currently uses command centers, security officers, video cameras, the BluePoint rapid emergency response system and door access controls. Staff members also receive ALICE active shooter training.

Bluder said the companies are allowing the district to test the systems at no expense.

“A couple days at (Hinsdale South), then we’ll move it over to Central for two days, as well,” he said.

Once the testing is complete, the district is expected to issue a request for proposal to get pricing on system implementation.

“We are interested to see what this process looks like at our schools and how efficient it is,” Bluder said. “We are always looking for a way to improve safety. This is a chance to explore new technology with no obligation to the district.”

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean