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Guilford County Schools to Demo High-Tech Body Scanners

The North Carolina district is planning an open house to show off a scanner called Evolv Express that can scan 3,600 people an hour for potential weapons, without requiring them to empty their bags.

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(TNS) — People will get a chance next week to see demonstrations of high-tech body scanners proposed to be put into use this fall at the Guilford County Schools' high school campuses.

An open house is scheduled 4-6 p.m. Thursday, June 23, at High Point Central High School of a scanner called Evolv Express, made by Massachusetts-based Evolv Technology, that is designed to quickly detect potential weapons without slowing the line of people entering the school.

An open house also is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Wednesday at Smith High School in Greensboro.

Parents throughout the school system should receive information about the open houses this week.

The devices can scan 3,600 people an hour, which is one per second and one-tenth the time that a traditional metal detector takes, Mike Richey, the school system's executive director of school safety, told the Guilford County Board of Education on Tuesday.

"That allows us not to worry about long lines outside of schools," which themselves would pose a security hazard, he said.

No one would need to empty backpacks, purses or other packages, he said.

The scanners work by looking for particular shapes, sizes and physical density consistent with guns, knives, bullets and other likely weapons, he said.

The systems are relatively portable and easy to move to other places, such as athletic facilities, if school officials want to, he said.

Such scanners have been used at professional sports venues but only a handful of school systems, Richey said. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is one of them.

The school system would not buy the scanners but would lease them using federal grant money. If the school board votes in favor of it, it would cost up to $1 million to lease scanners for all 19 traditional high schools and academies, Richey said.

Richey and Superintendent Sharon Contreras emphasized that the scanners are not designed or intended to prevent mass shooting events such as the recent one at Uvalde, Texas. Such events almost always involve someone breaking into a school.

Other security upgrades that would help prevent those, such as secure vestibules to help keep out intruders, are planned as part of school projects in the recently approved $1.7 billion bond package or are being considered for existing grant funding, school staff said.

Instead, the scanners target internal threats. Students themselves are responsible for the large majority of violence in middle and high school grades, Richey said. He cited federal data that showed that since 1970, students have been 43 percent of those committing shootings at schools, while people unconnected to the school have been just 19 percent. Also, high schools account for 84 percent of all school shooting incidents.

In other business, the school board approved a contract of $822,320 with AAR of North Carolina to replace the roof of Oakview Elementary School.

The board also discussed consolidating the Guilford eLearning Virtual Academy, which has online classes for grades K-5, and the Guilford eLearning University Prep, which has online classes for grades 6-8. Both were set up because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but enrollment fell 70 percent from the 2020-21 school year to the 2021-22 school year, going from a combined 4,017 to fewer than 1,200.

The board has scheduled a public hearing on the consolidation proposal for June 28, when the board also is scheduled to vote on it.

©2022 The High Point Enterprise (High Point, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.