CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An approval of Kanawha County Schools’ five-year excess levy would mean a new weapons detection system would be installed in all nine of the county’s high schools.
Voters are being asked this Tuesday to approve or reject a renewal of the excess levy that would fund a number of security upgrades at schools.
The weapons detection system, in particular, would be one of the school system’s first priorities, if approved, according to KCS Safety and Security Executive Director Keith Vititoe.
“They would allow us to run large amounts of people through in a given time frame,” Vititoe said. “It would more accurately identify weapons instead of just metal.”
The system can track 4,000 people passing through per hour.
“Basically you can leave everything on your person, you can walk through touchless and it finds the gun,” said Chris Janey, sales consultant for Newtech Systems, Inc.
Newtech Systems designed the product. Janey was at the West Virginia School Safety Conference in Charleston last month to demonstrate how it works.
“Not only does it have the ability to identify weapons, but with the video, the analytics, we can do facial recognition,” he said.
A school safety officer or counselor would monitor the live video stream to catch criminals or people that shouldn’t be on school property, Janey said.
“It can send out an alert that that person has made it through,” he said.
The technology is personal to Janey who told MetroNews he lost a family member to gun violence.
“I lost my uncle who was a deputy in Putnam County in 1989,” he said. “The correlation to me is if he would’ve known that the suspect had a gun, it would have saved his life.”
Vititoe said there are several benefits of using the system. There’s very little training involved, it doesn’t take much staff to operate and the system is mobile.
“One of the systems we can rotate around to other schools especially when we have an elevated concern at a school or if we just want to do it on a random basis,” he said.
Midland Trail High School in Fayette County has tested the technology, Janey said.
Janey said his goal is to place the system in all 55 school districts in West Virginia.
The excess levy proposes more than $13 million in security enhancements including the hiring of a 12-member armed security force that will cover schools that currently don’t have resource officers.
Vititoe said the security force is not law enforcement and won’t replace law enforcement. They will not make arrests or impose school discipline. They won’t write citations or appear in uniform.
Vititoe hopes to hire retired police officers.
The other security measures planned over the five-year excess levy is the construction of security vestibules at 57 school buildings creating a barrier that would keep visitors from entering a door and having access to students.
The levy would also fund school employee salaries, substitute salaries, employee benefits, textbooks/supplies, lab equipment, printing, postage, cleaning, pest management, fire alarm inspections, maintenance, roof replacement, paving, heating/air conditioning improvements, middle and high school tennis court improvements, turfing baseball and softball fields and resurfacing tracks.
The excess levy will provide the school district with about $61.7 million annually starting in the 2024-2025 school year. It will not increase property tax rates.
Kanawha County voters approved the current levy in November 2018; the current levy will expire in June 2024.
Election Day is Tuesday.