New security protocol may come to Maricopa high schools as soon as next semester.
Maricopa Unified School District officials continued a work study Wednesday to mull implementing metal detectors at the city’s two high schools.
The OPENGATE systems would screen visitors’ backpacks and purses, seeking threats wirelessly and without requiring the bags to be emptied.
Since June, Assistant Superintendent Tracey Pastor surveyed students, staff and parents about the issue.
“We had great participation,” she said. “There were many that were supportive, and they wanted to know how soon we can have these, and why don’t we already have them.”
Based on 1,140 online responses, about 70% of participants said weapons detectors would make them feel safer at school. About 42% said they would feel “very comfortable.”
But some had concerns about wait times or the invasion of privacy.
The same survey revealed about 15% would be “very uncomfortable” with the 25-pound columns on campus.
Despite the naysayers, board members expressed eagerness to get the ball rolling. But like most large projects, it’s like peeling back the layers of an onion, President Robert Downey said.
Next steps include firming up logistics, creating a staffing model and continuing the work study.
“We should have a rough idea of what it may cost, what it may mean staffing wise,” Downey said. “But I think we should still move forward knowing that there will be refinement as we continue on down the process.”
The units are a pricey yet monumental step toward enhanced school safety. Further action requires board approval.
Aside from the $17,500 price tag, each set of detectors requires two or three staff members to set up, guide students and deploy secondary procedures when needed.
If the board decides to buy the metal detectors, it will take up to 10 weeks after the purchase before they arrive in Maricopa. District staff can receive training for an additional fee.
Superintendent Tracey Lopeman acknowledged the subject’s nuance.
“It’s a very sensitive moment, when you’re walking through the system,” she said. “We want to make sure that we understand the implications.”
Board member Torri Anderson added, “This is not the be all, end all for safety. This is a layer of safety.”