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Two Security Systems Could Help Keep Columbia Students Safe

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This article originally appeared in the Columbia Daily Tribune. To view the original article, click here.


The Columbia Board of Education on Thursday took steps aimed at improving student safety.

The board voted 6-0 to approve a new visitor information system for school buildings. It discussed a recommended weapon detection system, with a vote expected in April.

Students for Change, a group of high school students seeking safer schools, have long called for school district action to improve safety in schools.

The meeting, posted to begin at 8:30 a.m., didn’t begin until 9:30 because the board met in closed session before the public meeting. Board member Jeanne Snodgrass left at 10 a.m. and wasn’t present for the visitor information system vote or the weapon detection system discussion.

The $121,354 cost of the Raptor Technologies visitor management system is covered by a school safety grant. The system also includes an annual subscription price of $52,174.

It provides instant screening of visitors, checking names against sex offender registries in all 50 states. The system confirms custodial rights. A sticker badge for each visitor with their photograph identifies their location on the school campus.

It is used by Parkway School District in Missouri, Dallas Independent School District in Texas and Salt Lake City School District in Utah.

The district administration has recommended the OpenGate weapon detection system from Communications Technology Inc., at a cost of $260,726 for 12 to 15 units.

Unlike a weapon detection system demonstrated at local high schools, the recommended system doesn’t use artificial intelligence to identify weapons, but can be callibrated to detect the common firearms and weapons available here.

“It does alert to metal and you can set the sensitivity of it,” said Ken Gregory, CPS security director, in his presentation to the school board.

Students and others can pass through the units without stopping, so as not to alter the flow of traffic in buildings.

School districts in Alton, Illinois, and Wichita, Kansas, are among those that use the system.

The units are lightweight and portable and runs on battery power, Gregory said. The units will be used primarily at the high schools, but also can be moved between buildings.

“It’s cost effective compared with the other systems,” Gregory said. “It’s very versatile in that sense.”

The school resource officers at the high schools are “100% on board” with the system, he said.

There are no ongoing costs.

“With this system, we own it, which is great,” Gregory said.

If the board approves the weapon detection system, both systems can be in place for the start of the 2024-25 school year.
 
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