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Weapons detection systems to be installed in schools

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Apr 20, 2023

A $3.2 million weapons detection system will be installed in Lee County schools next year as another safety measure for students and staff.

The groundbreaking weapons detection system, OPENGATE, was approved by the School Board of Lee County at its April 11 meeting. The approval was to piggyback the Interlocal Purchasing System for Technology Solutions Products and Service to Communications Technologies, Inc. from April 11, through April 10, 2024. The system has a price tag of $3,221,372,45, which is funded through sales tax dollars.

The system allows for fast and automatic screening, no removal of backpacks, bags, or purses and easy walk through flow, officials said.

Safety, Security & Emergency Management Executive Director David Newlan said OPENGATE is a good thing that will come to fruition for the 2023-24 school year.

“You have to do your due diligence to make sure you choose the right (system) to fit our needs and our district,” he said.

The system is a good fit for the district because of the way it was designed, Newlan said. It has good mobility, as it is easy to maneuver. The system is 25 pounds and can be set up in 30 seconds, he said.

The system is not a metal detector, which would require individuals to take everything out of their pockets, purses, backpacks, as well as taking off their watch. That would not be conducive in a school environment where you have 2,000 students walking through, Newlan said.

“It allows them to walk through as they normally would,” he said, adding that sometimes you may not know you are walking through a detection device. “It will be in every school. Every school in Lee County will have a weapon detection device.”

The device detects contraband by its formation and shape.

“It makes more sense for our type of environment. We are trying to make sure our kids are safe. It’s another layer of security to keep students and staff safe,” Newlan said.

There will be a slow roll out of OPENGATE starting at the beginning of next school year. It will not all happen at once, as there needs to be training and the ability to work out issues to ensure it is smooth for staff to use.

The number of systems at a given school will depend on the school’s design, how it is set up, as well as the population of the school.

“We will look at the school itself. We are protecting all of our schools,” Newlan said.

He said he has received positive feedback from students, parents and staff regarding the system.

“That’s what students want, to feel safe in their schools,” Newlan said. “This is another layer that we are going to do to our current procedures to make sure we are going to keep our students and staff safe.”