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The changes Henrico will be making to enhance safety in schools

Posted at 10:35 PM, Feb 09, 2023

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Henrico School district leaders laid out ongoing and new safety measures they are taking to school board members in a meeting on Thursday.

Starting next week, middle and high school students in Henrico will be subjected to metal detectors and detection wands search when they go to school. District staff and administrators at the school are currently being trained on how to use the security equipment and conduct the screenings.

The move comes as the district is exploring ways to keep weapons outside of schools. The district has had multiple incidents in January with students bringing guns onto school property.

The school system will be conducting field tests for the metal detectors and wands with the hopes that they can work as effective tools to enhance school safety.

"I'm concerned and disappointed we are at a place where we have to talk about metal detectors," Marcie Shea, a school board member, said.

Field testing will take place at three Henrico high schools - Godwin, Hermitage and Varina - and also at two middle schools that have not been named at this time. The testing window will happen five days between next week and spring break.

After the tests are completed, the district will look at the impact on staff who are facilitating the process and how the safety measures are perceived by students and families. They will also be gathering data points for things such as how long the safety measures take as well as if the measures are cost-effective.

“This is an opportunity for us to learn if and how we might implement these in the future, where, for example, a pilot might be an early adopter of something that would then be implemented school-wide, so I want to be clear on the difference,” said Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell.

School board members also weighed in on questions and concerns that have been brought up to them about the enhanced safety measures.

Alicia Atkins, the school board's vice chair, brought up concerns about student understanding. She expressed worries that students have told her that they feel they are being treated as suspects or they feel their privacy is being invaded.

In response to student concerns, the district said counselors are being trained and made available to support students during this transition. They are also providing different resources and communications to explain the process to students and parents.

“We’re are always balancing and particularly when it comes to our safety procedures making sure we are creating a welcoming environment that’s conducive for learning. And also doing so in a manner to make sure we’re implementing every safety strategy,” said Dr. Cashwell

The district also has several other new ongoing projects with the hopes to increase safety. They received a state grant to create digital maps of the 73 schools for first responders in case of a crisis. Additionally, they are adding 22 more vestibules that will be completed in the fall, increasing K-9 sweeps in schools and adding additional card readers.

Additional safety measures that the district plans to take include the following:

  • Vestibules
  • Emergency Radios
  • Monitored intrusion alarm system
  • Anonymous alerts
  • Crisis response teams
  • Threat assessment teams
  • Rapid notification system
  • Safety audits
  • School security officers and school resource officers
  • Security cameras
  • Camera buzz-in systems

The district has also shared an FAQ about the field tests on its website. Click hereto read more.

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