Jacksonville high schools getting walk-through metal detectors
Equipment to arrive to campuses by mid-January, district says
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County high school students will be walking through metal detectors in the near future as they enter school in the mornings.
A district spokesperson said the schools will receive the equipment within 30-90 days, which means it will arrive by mid-January at the latest.
Installation of the metal detectors and training on using them will take some time and will be done on a school-by-school basis, officials said.
Each high school will have a different plan based on several factors, including the student population and physical size of the school.
Administrators will be trained on the detectors and will be responsible for using them. School police will not handle the walk-through detectors.
The spokesperson did not indicate which schools would get the detectors first.
All high schools will eventually have both walk-through metal detectors and hand-held metal detectors. The high schools currently have metal detector wands but many are old or don't work anymore, so they will be replaced.
More random checks with the hand-held detectors will also be conducted, including when students get out of cars and off the bus before school.
Sandalwood High School students had mixed emotions Tuesday when they learned they would soon be walking through metal detectors before school. But Martin Lopez, with Red Team Safety and Security, thinks it's the right decision.
"I mean, a metal detector and the presence of it and an understanding at the parent level, student level, staff level -- everyone knows there’s a chance I'm going to get searched at any given moment," Lopez said. "That’s a huge deterrent."
Though he couldn't speak on the policies the district will implement, Lopez said school administrators will go through important training.
"These devices and tools are fantastic. They will detect something, but it’s up to that person to know what it is they’re looking for, what the concerns are," Lopez said. "Every school will have different concerns and issues they’re dealing with."
Adding additional safety equipment to schools has been a hot-button topic in Northeast Florida. Last week, Mandarin High School was evacuated twice in one week -- once because of a bomb threat and then again the next day because of a shooting threat.
The funding for the hand-held detectors was already in the district budget. Funding for the walk-through detectors will come through a grant that the district has to apply for by December.
Superintendent Diana Greene said during a Duval County School Board workshop Tuesday that the district had not planned to release the information about the metal detectors yet, but a parent brought them up at a meeting Monday night, prompting the response.
The school board will have a workshop next month focused solely on the new plan.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there is a wide range of walk-through metal detectors, and the prices vary.
They can start at $1,000 and run as high as $30,000.
The moderately priced models cost around $4,000 to $5,000 and usually offer the features required for a school metal detection program.
Doing the math to install a $5,000 metal detector in every Duval County public school, amounts to a cost of nearly $1 million, and that doesn't include maintenance and upkeep.
Use of metal detectors in neighboring school districts
The Nassau County School District said it does not currently use metal detectors.
"While nothing is off the table, there are no plans at present to use them," a district spokesperson said.
A spokeswoman for the St. Johns County School District said, "We are not planning to install metal detectors in our high schools at this time. We do have them in our alternative school though, which has a single point of entry."
News4Jax is still waiting to hear back from the Putnam County and Clay County school districts.
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