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12.1.22 – KWCH-TV

New technology has started to arrive to help the Wichita school district enhance its security plans at its high schools.

The Wichita Board of Education approved the purchase of OPENGATE screening devices for all WPS high schools at its meeting on Sept 12. On Friday, West High School will become the first Wichita school to use the screening devices.

The OPENGATE scanners are designed to automatically scan backpacks and bags for metal threats, including firearms. The devices are portable and can be moved throughout the schools for different events as another layer of safety precautions.

In September, the board of education approved the spending of $1.5 million for up to 50 new devices. The district made the purchase after five guns were found on the premises of Wichita high schools within the first two weeks of the school year.

On Thursday, West High School senior Elvis Cruz was among those who took part in a demo of the OPENGATE system. He expressed mixed feelings about its introduction. While appreciating that the OPENGATE devices are for students’ safety, he said getting used to it will be difficult, especially with how many students attend West High.

After a couple weeks of getting acclimated to the new technology, West High School Principal Mark Jolliffe said he believes his students will adapt.

“I think kids are going to be adaptable, but it’s new and they will get accustomed to what they have to do,” he said. “…Once they get use to it in a few days, they’ll be great and I think the overall response is positive because they want to come to a school that’s safe and not have to worry about weapons.”

The district said it expects delays when the devices go live Friday at West High’s three entrances. Unlike metal detectors, the OPENGATE screening devices don’t require students to take off backpacks and empty pockets, so it doesn’t create a significant backup as students try to enter the school. In September, 12 news visited the North Little Rock, Arkansas school district to see how the OPENGATE devices work. The district reported laptops, large three-ring binders and metal water bottles setting it off. What the devices are searching for are large metal objects like guns and knives.

“Anything that we can do to reduce the opportunity for a weapon being brought into our building, that’s what we’re going to do,” said Wichita Public Schools Safety and Environmental Services Director Terri Moses.

District leaders and security staff spent Thursday afternoon in training on the systems which include guidance like where to place the devices.

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