ALEXANDRIA, Va. (DC News Now) — Students in Alexandria schools will see a new, and visible, change that the district hopes will keep them, and its staff, safe.
After widespread community support was revealed for weapons-detecting devices inside of the schools, the Alexandria City School Board voted 8-0, with one member absent, to begin the pilot program for the new technology in May.
The program will begin in four schools — Alexandria City High School’s King Street and Minnie Howard campuses, as well as George Washington Middle School and Francis C. Hammond Middle School — toward the end of May. The detectors will be in place from May through the end of summer school, which the board members hope gives them enough data and feedback to determine whether they want to continue the safety measure into the 2023-24 school year.
“It’s our belief this solution will act as a deterrent for weapons to make their ways into school grounds,” said Jim Dillon, a member of the city’s Gang Prevention Community Task Force. “And in turn create a more competent and safe learning environment for both students and administrators.”
Survey results showed 73% of students, 90% of family members, and 93% of staff agreed that the equipment should be used in at least some city schools.
“That speaks volumes to how much the family supports this,” said School Board Member Willie Bailey.
In the first semester of the school year, 12 weapons — including nine knives — were found in city schools. Earlier this month, administrators found an unloaded gun on a student at ACHS’s Minnie Howard campus.2
“Suppose that would’ve went the other way around and something happened in that school,” Bailey said. “The city would’ve been looking at us saying what did we do about it.”
According to the survey, people who don’t want the technology in the schools cited concerns it would change the ‘welcoming’ environment and the cost.
But the board members did not feel those reasons were worth holding back on the plan.
“As someone who makes decisions on the budget, that would be my perspective: you can’t put a price on the safety of our students,” said Board Member Abdel-Rahman Elnoubi.
According to previous presentations to the school board, the devices would cost either $60k or $13k, depending on the model, and the intent is to pay for them through a combination of CIP security funds and grants the district is seeking.