Lack of air conditioning, long security lines amongst issues on first day at Henrico County schools

Posted at 5:09 PM, Aug 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-21 17:10:22-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- On one of Kamari Gilliam's final days at Highland Springs High School, the senior was one of hundreds of students greeted by a long line to enter the school building.

New weapon detection systems installed at Henrico County high schools led to varied arrival times for students across the county on the first day of school.

"When I was in line, it was like by the door all the way around to like the old school or whatever," Gilliam said of the long line. "It took about 35 minutes, but they made a second line into the other door, so I got in quicker.”

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Highland Springs, along with the eight other high schools in Henrico County, has weapon detectors in place as an added security measure. According to the district, students will only be able to enter the school through the designated entrance points that have these setups.

The school board voted earlier this summer to put weapons detectors in all schools, but the county said they are in the process of securing the hardware to put them in all middle and elementary schools.

HCPS officials said each school is working out its own procedures to ensure smoother arrivals as the year goes on.

"Each school sought to ensure all students and staff had time to become familiar and comfortable with the new process, ask questions, and adjust to the new routines. The delays varied by school, but students arrived safely and efficiently made their way to their classrooms," a Henrico County Public Schools spokesperson said in a statement.

"As we do each year, every school is reviewing arrival and dismissal procedures following the first day, including weapons scanners protocols and traffic patterns, and will be adjusting as needed to ensure the safety of all our students, families, and staff."

"I don’t know, I don’t really like it. But, I guess it helps the school so that there won’t be any problems in the school," Gilliam said of the weapons detection system.

Henrico Schools also faces a problem with the HVAC systems across the district. Last week, the Henrico Citizen reported the AC system at 15 school buildings needed repairs before the first day of classes.

On Monday morning, a CBS 6 tipster reported that the air conditioning at Hermitage High School was on the fritz as well.

HCPS said their crews were working on the issues as quickly as possible.

"Our crews worked diligently through the weekend to address issues previously reported and run and monitor all systems in preparation for the first day of school. In doing so, new issues were identified in some schools, such as at Hermitage High School, which are being addressed as quickly as possible," a spokesperson said. "We continue to monitor temperatures and operations throughout the division and to respond expeditiously. When necessary, while repairs are underway, schools adopt short-term measures such as moving to alternate spaces within the school or using portable coolers and fans to keep students and staff comfortable."

As of midday Monday, the tipster said the air conditioning was back working at Hermitage.

Gilliam heard there might be air conditioning problems at Highland Springs but did not notice anything on her first day. Instead, her focus is finishing up her high school days strong, launching her toward college, where she plans to begin studying law.

"My mom, she went to school to be a social worker. I’m just following her path to go to school," Gilliam said. "I’m excited [for the school year], and I want it to be different than last year and be successful!”

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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