Henrico school leaders receive feedback on metal detectors and weapon scanners testing

Testing was rolled out in three phases from February until about spring break.
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 10:17 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2023 at 11:09 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - After testing out metal detectors and weapon scanners at six of its schools, Henrico schools leaders were presented the results of the trial at Thursday’s school board meeting.

Testing was rolled out in three phases from February until about spring break.

The first phase of this test involved traditional metal detectors at Godwin, Hermitage, and Varina high schools.

Due to how long the process can be with walkthrough metal detectors, students were randomly selected to be searched.

This process only captured about 8 to 15 percent of the student population at each high school.

“Walkthrough metal detectors do not distinguish between everyday objects like keys and cell phones, which can cause long waits, slow-moving lines when everyone has to empty pockets.” Leonard Pritchard, chief of operations for Henrico County Public Schools, said.

From there, phases two and three included adding weapon scanners to two different middle schools, Lakeside Elementary, and later at Hermitage High School.

“Weapons scanners allow the students to pass through without removing keys or phones because the technology is scanning for high-density metals and thus sophisticated enough to pick weapons and firearms but not keys,” Pritchard said.

It’s a process school officials said seems to be more efficient and less impactful on the school day.

“For a sense of how the two systems compared at Hermitage High School, we scanned approximately 130 students in 30 minutes with metal detectors,” Pritchard said. “When we returned with weapon scanners we were able to scan approximately 1,100 students in 30 minutes.”

Surveys were sent out to families and staff members at all of the schools in the test.

68 percent of families and 49 percent of staff approved of the traditional metal detectors, while 66 percent of families and 60 percent of staff felt the weapon scanners were worthy investments.

Another survey will be sent out to all HCPS families on April 24 to determine if they would like to see the added measures placed at more schools.

There were some concerns raised by board members Thursday night including how late a vote in June could be if a recommendation is made to expand the program.

Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell said she will bring more information for the board at its next meeting in May.