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Columbia Public Schools will roll out weapons detection systems at high schools in the fall


Columbia Public Schools unanimously approved a bid with Communications Technologies Inc. for weapons detection systems at its board of education meeting Monday night.

CPS spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said the district is purchasing 15 units total, which will be located at the district's three high schools.

Communications Technologies Inc., located in Chesterfield, Missouri, will provide the district with Opengate weapon detection systems.

According to the meeting agenda, CPS will pay $260,726 for the systems. The cost will be covered by capital project funding and includes staff training.

Board of Education President Suzette Waters said the goal is to implement the weapons detection systems at one high school in the summer and fully implement them at all high schools in the fall.

"This is just one thing that the board is doing to hopefully increase safety in the schools by number one deterring people bringing weapons into the school and then detecting them if somebody does attempt to bring one in," Waters said.

The request for proposal said these systems can detect weapons such as guns, knives, brass knuckles and razor blades while ignoring everyday objects such as keys, cellphones and jewelry. Communications Technologies Inc., however, did say some laptops may alert certain units.

Waters said these systems are being bought in response to the events taking place across the country.

"We're having to respond to that unfortunate but real threat by doing what we can to keep (guns) out of our buildings because they just do not belong there," Waters said.

Students are happy to see the systems approved. Hickman High School junior Karli Jones with Students for Change CPS said while a step like this is overdue, she's happy to see safety measures taking place within the district.

"I think that this is definitely a step in the right direction," said Hickman High School junior Karli Jones. "I think that it's evidence that CPS is taking student voices seriously in discussions about school security."

The district is also adding three additional safety and security staff members to assist with the weapons detection systems, as well as other duties. A presentation at Monday's board meeting shows this will cost $187,500.

Waters said the location of the systems at the high schools will be determined by the district's Safety and Security team. She said the systems will start at the high schools, but if there is a need to expand to other buildings, that conversation will be had a later date.

CPS previously tested weapons detections with Evolv in December. That company is facing a lawsuit for allegedly misleading shareholders.

Waters said the district ended up going with Communications Technologies Inc. due to the lower price, the Missouri location and the flexibility of the units.

"That system is extremely portable, it weighs like 25 pounds," Waters said. "So, we can move it around as needed in different parts of the high school, at different entrances, we can take it outside if we want to use it at a sporting event or some other kind of event."

The proposal shows these weapons detection systems can scan at least 1,000 people per hour. It says the units do not rely on a wireless connection and can be powered with a power adapter or batteries.

Waters said some administration members and safety and security staff viewed the systems in Illinois, but the systems have not yet been tried at CPS. Staff training is required before the systems can be implemented.

Jones said students at Hickman noticed issues with the Evolv systems in December, and is hoping the new systems are implemented in a way that allow students a sense of normalcy and allow them to still get to class on time.

"I just think normalcy is really important to maintain as much as we can," Jones said. "The routine that students are already used to needs to be preserved as much as possible."

Along with weapons detection systems, Jones said Students for Change CPS would like to also see the implementation of trauma kits, bulletproof film on windows and more mental health support.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia Public Schools

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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