DeKalb School Board postpones approving second year of lease for metal detectors – Decaturish | #schoolsaftey

This story has been updated. 

By Jaedon Mason, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb County School Board at its Sept. 11 meeting voted to postpone approving the second year of a lease with Evolv Weapons Detection for metal detectors in schools across the county. 

The contract for roughly $8 million was initially approved in March of this year. According to Superintendent Devon Horton, because the program is funded by a grant, it comes with the specification that the approval for the $1.6 million for year two of the program, be passed by Sept. 30, which is why the issue is being discussed now. 

DeKalb Schools Spokesperson Donald Porter said the district received $1.65 million in grant funding from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budgets for a Public Safety and Community Violence Reduction Strategies grant. That is what the district intends to use to pay for year two of the contract, he said.

Board Member Whitney McGinniss raised concerns about the implementation of the metal detectors. As evidence that there may still be kinks to be worked out in the program, McGinniss brought up how Druid Hills High School announced it would be pushing back their bell times by 10 minutes to give students more time to get through them. 

“It has not been a full year…[but] I am feeling like we don’t have a complete picture of the benefits,” McGinnis said. “… If there are still implementation challenges, which it seems like there are, are we going to be able to address those [if we approve the second year of the lease] and what’s are plan to do so?”

In public comment, a community member expressed concerns more generally about the role of metal detectors in schools. 

“We put metal detectors in for safety, but they don’t actually address the issue of the mental health crisis we have within our community, the children, faculty and staff of our school district,” the speaker said.

Board Chair Dijon DaCosta told Decaturish that metal detectors were, “Not a fix all solution.”

While he and the rest of the board remain in favor of metal detectors, DaCosta reiterated the board’s commitment to taking time to look at the data to understand how the program was working. 

DaCosta asked staff to provide additional information on the status of the programs, detailing specifics on how effective the program has been thus far, and to share this information at the board’s next called meeting.

Critics of the use of metal detectors in schools point to a lack of evidence that they reduce the risk of violence, saying that they may make students feel less safe. 

Decaturish asked DaCosta whether metrics other than weapon confiscations will be used to assess the effectiveness of the program? 

DaCosta said yes.

“We are planning to hear from stakeholders in the building such as staff, students and community members,” he said. “We want to hear from them after two to four months where there has been consistency across the district, as well as time for trial and error to make adjustments.” 

“There is no way to truly measure the effectiveness of Evolv before December, until there is quantitative and qualitative data compiled,” he added. 

In other news:

– The board approved the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling: LETRS Initiative Year 2 of 2, not to exceed $397,100.

According to the program’s website, LETRS is, “a professional learning course of study based in the science of reading for elementary educators. The course teaches the how, what, and why of literacy.”

The point of it, more simply, is to give educators a base of understanding of how reading as a skill is acquired. The district purchased 1,000 lessons and surpassed its goal of 600 participants, with about 800 educators participating and 430 completing the first year of the program.  

Roughly 150 of these licenses were unopened and can be reassigned, but due to increasing interest, the district is also training another cohort of participants.

– The board approved a contract with CDH Partners for professional architectural and engineering services for a district wide evaluation of high school athletic facilities. The contract is for $136,500. 

Facilities included in the evaluation are: Arabia Mountain High School, Cedar Grove High School, Chamblee High School, Clarkston High School, Columbia High School, Dunwoody High School, Druid Hills Middle School, Lakeside High School, Lithonia High School, Miller Grove High School, M.L. King, Jr. High School, Redan High School, Stone Mountain High School, Southwest DeKalb High School, Stephenson High School, Ronald E. McNair High School, Tucker High School and Towers High School

– The board approved general contractor services for Briarlake ES, Early Learning Center, Montclair ES and Tucker MS HVAC and Controls Replacement to Evergreen Construction for an amount not to exceed $31,921,000.  

– The Superintendent announced launch of the Capital Improvement Program website. This site is meant to be a place for citizens to see monthly updates on the infrastructure projects the city is working on the link is here.

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