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ACPS says long lines at high school are part of adjustments to new security measures

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said long lines to get into Alexandria City High School (ACHS) are part of the growing pains as the system adjusts to new security measures.

Earlier this year, ACPS approved new security measures including metal detectors and handheld wand devices. The security measures were in response to several security issues at the school in recent years. Earlier this year, a teacher at ACHS’ Minnie Howard Campus seized a handgun from a student.

But the installation of new security measures at ACHS and the school district’s two middle schools led to long lines to get into the building.

In a statement, ACPS leadership said the school district saw similar lines with student IDs last fall, but that the process will get more refined with time.

According to Alicia Hart, ACPS Chief of Facilities & Operations:

We sent a communication to staff and families yesterday regarding some adjustments to the screening process that we will be implementing to minimize wait time. As we anticipated, with any new process, adjustments and revamping may take place as we refine the process. As an example, we had a similar experience with lines when we launched the student ID process this past fall. Within a few weeks, the process improved and the length of time to get through the ID process diminished.

Below is the message sent to the ACHS community:

Greetings ACPS Middle and High School Staff and Families,

We shared last week that Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) was officially launching the weapons screening pilot program at Alexandria City High School (ACHS) – King Street campus on Mon., May 15, 2023. In today’s launch, we were able to screen most students (not including late arrivals) within a 75-minute timeframe. As we anticipated, with any new process, adjustments and revamping may take place as we refine the process. As an example, we had a similar experience with lines when we launched the student ID process this past fall. Within a few weeks, the process improved and the length of time to get through the ID process diminished.

Today’s weapons screening launch provided additional insight into the process and how to make the screening process more efficient for the remainder of the rollout. Please see the insights below:

In addition to Chromebooks/laptops, it was discovered that a small percentage of eyeglass cases (lined with metal), certain umbrellas and large three-ring binders may cause the system to falsely alert. To this end, we asked students to have these items outside of their belongings prior to walking through the system

Cell phones, coins, ear pods, spiral notebooks, keys, wallets, lunch containers, etc. do not need to be removed. Students can keep these items on their person as they walk through the equipment

We will have bus drivers remind students to remove the requested items from their belongings prior to exiting the bus to the extent possible. This should help in reducing lines

We are also asking administrators to remind students, via SEAL lessons and announcements, of the process

At the onset of introducing this pilot program, we noted that students would not have to remove items from their personal belongings. However, as we learned that certain components within select items may create false alerts, we decided to proactively ask for those items to be removed. The intent in doing so is to minimize students having to go through the secondary search process for items that we know are not weapons.

We would like to thank all of the students for their patience and grace this morning as we introduced this process. We would also like to thank families for your understanding as we continue to work through the process and logistics of this system. Lastly, we would like to thank staff for supporting the screening process today. The end goal is a smooth, seamless process for students while reducing the likelihood of weapons in our facilities.

We will provide more updates if we discover additional adjustments are necessary as we continue the roll out this week.Sincerely,

Dr. Alicia Hart

Chief of Facilities & Operations

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