Metal detectors to be installed in Gateway high, middle schools
Gateway High School’s large group instruction room was packed Feb. 12 for a Safe School community meeting, where administrators discussed new safety practices, including plans for utilizing metal detectors and an app that collates anonymous tips.
Assistant Superintendent Dennis Chakey, who is part of the district’s five-person safety team, said the district is getting metal detectors, but not because of a spike in weapons streaming into the schools.
“We wanted to sit back and say, ‘OK, we feel prepared.’ This is just another aspect to make sure we’re safe,” Chakey said to parents and teachers who gathered for the meeting.
Chakey said the 10 metal detectors, purchased for $25,000 through a state grant, will be installed March 4 at the high school and Gateway Middle School for a pilot program that will last through the school year.
School officials have indicated more metal detectors are coming, but no dates have been discussed publicly.
Chakey said points of entry at each school have been tested recently to ensure efficiency. The district’s 13 police officers will randomize screenings for now.
Chakey said some options include screening students from two buses at a time. District officials have said other options include screening every fifth student who walks through the door.
A parent was concerned with the potential for clogging entryways, causing a “sitting duck” scenario.
“If a kid wanted to attack, that would be the perfect moment to do it,” said Yasmin Mukhtar, a parent of three children in the district.
Chakey said the point of the metal detectors was not to focus on “what if” scenarios.
“We’ll get as many students through the detectors as possible. And there will be extra officers around them to make sure that’s happening,” he said.
Chakey also discussed the district’s revamped anonymous tip system, “Safe 2 Say Something.” The mobile app-based system allows users to anonymously provide tips about bullying, potential threats and other complaints.
The state-funded app is modeled after one Colorado created in the wake of Columbine’s 1999 school shooting.
The app is part of state legislation that allocated $60 million in grants to schools’ safety programs. The funding was spurred in Pennsylvania after a gunman killed 17 people in a Parkland, Fla., school in February 2018.
Chakey said he and other members of the district’s safety team would get an immediate alert if a user of the app posted an anonymous tip about a life-threatening danger.
“We would get a text in the middle of the night if it was a life-saving tip,” he said, adding the text would be sent to the team “on down the line” until one of them read the text. Chakey, Assistant Superintendent Guy Rossi, Superintendent Bill Short, Director of Gateway School Police Bryan Key and Gateway Middle School Principal Rocco Telli make up the district’s safety team.
Other tips that are not life-threatening would be handled accordingly, Chakey said.
The Safe School Community meeting lasted about an hour before the school board met for an agenda-setting meeting.
Some parents wished the administration would have opened up the meeting to a question-and-answer forum. Instead, Chakey encouraged parents to speak one-on-one with administrators and principals about their concerns and questions to allow the school board time to hold its meeting.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.