Little Rock School District votes to install metal detectors in schools

LITTLE ROCK — The Little Rock School Board voted unanimously Thursday to place mobile weapons detection devices at entrances to middle and high schools in the district and at a handful of other sites.

The board approved the plan for metal detectors at a special meeting and business session where it also approved increasing starting wages to over $15 an hour for many of his support staff jobs.

Later Thursday night, Superintendent Jermall Wright and school board members explored the issue of required work hours for teachers and whether the district remains committed to establishing career academies in all of its high schools.

Wright and his team recommended that the district acquire and install 35 walk-through metal detectors — at a cost of $678,864 — in light of what he said was an increase in the number of weapons discovered on campuses. this school year.

Wright made the recommendation after two loaded 9mm handguns were found at Central High and 14 “facsimile” pistols on various campuses, including elementary schools this school year. A facsimile gun with real bullets was found at Hall High.

A facsimile gun can be a toy gun, BB gun, or air guns that fire plastic pellets.

Specifically, the board approved the use of the Opengate Weapons Detection System as supplied by Convergint Technologies, a systems integration company that would perform installation, training, ongoing service of the system, and reporting.

Ron Self, director of safety and security for the district, told the council that the Opengate system differs from older models of metal detectors.

“It’s a much faster way to get students through,” Self said.

The proposed model does not take into account “minor metals”, such as keys, cell phones or belts, Self said. Instead, the system – with a few exceptions – flags objects that have the heaviest density that could be a gun or a bomb, he said.

However, the system detects Chromebook computing devices and three-ring binders that students regularly carry. These items have metal bands that are detected, but these items can be passed around detection systems, he said.

In response to questions from board members, Self said the system will not require the hiring of additional security personnel, but will rely in part on current school staff to help at the start of the school day.

Similar systems are used at the Arkansas State Fair, University of Arkansas football games, and Silver Dollar City amusement park in Missouri.

Board member Ali Noland said she and others don’t like the idea of ​​having to use metal detectors because they want schools to be welcoming and welcoming. But Noland said parents and students have consistently asked over the past few months how schools can be made safer.

Three of the detection units are planned for Parkview Magnet, and two at Hall High and Cloverdale colleges, Dunbar, Forest Heights, Horace Mann, Mabelvale and Pulaski Heights. West School of Innovation would have one unit.

Other units are designated for the Metropolitan Technical Skills Center, District Headquarters Office, and Adult and Alternative Learning Centers.

The district will pay for the system with federal covid-19 relief funds.

The Little Rock District has recently taken other steps to increase campus safety and security, and other measures are being considered, such as requiring students to use see-through backpacks.

Earlier this year, the school board approved the purchase of crisis alert badges and the enforcement of the district’s new policy and longstanding practice requiring doors to classrooms and outside schools to be locked at all times, except when students are in transition.

All school security personnel have been required to add additional random scans to their daily activities, according to documents presented to the school board. And, the district has requested additional assistance from the Little Rock Police Department in areas near schools where gun activity is prevalent.

SUPPORT STAFF SALARIES

The board’s vote on starting pay for support staff jobs will put starting hourly wage rates above $15 an hour.

The new severance rates will affect support service jobs such as custodial workers, food service workers, teacher’s aides and security guards.

Starting pay for security guards would increase from $12.71 an hour to $16.04, said Robert Robinson, the district’s executive director of human resources.

Starting pay for guards would drop from $11.53 an hour to $15.42. Salaries for teaching assistants would range from $15.73 to $17.58, depending on their particular assignments and degrees.

The starting wage for child nutrition workers would increase from $12.71 per hour to $16.04 per hour.

No current employee would earn less than a new employee who has the same level of experience, Robinson said of the compensation plan.

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