Wyoming Valley West launches new high-tech, high-speed scanners

Mar. 19—PLYMOUTH — Wyoming Valley West High School students started their day Friday with a very new version of what has become a ubiquitous school routine.

After years of walking through metal detectors that had to reset each time they were triggered, turning the entry line at times into a bit of a stop-and-go show, the school doors opened to two "Evolv" high tech scanners that quickly pinpoint the suspected concern with a red cube on a video screen, allowing staff to pull them aside for additional checks while other students continue to walk through the scanners.

Last month the school board approved the purchase of four of the "single lane advanced security detection systems" at a total cost of $373,556. Two were delivered, set up and calibrated for the start of school Friday. The other two are expected in early April and will be set up at the Middle School, though Safety, Security and Career Readiness Coordinator Anthony Dicton said they have larger stands and are a bit more robust, intended for potential outdoor use at things like football games. The district is using grant money from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to cover the purchase.

The scanners went on even before students came to the doors, with teachers triggering the red cube to show, on a pad screen that could be hand-held or placed in a stand, where the object was: A cube around a hand holding a metallic thermal cup, for example, or around a purse — or around the camera of a visiting reporter.

Tables were set up along the entrance hallway and students were told to place objects of known concern on the table before walking through — Chromebook computers in particular, but also larger three-ring binders. Dicton said cell phones should not trigger the alarm, which turns green lights on each vertical part of the scanner red, as well as showing the red cube on the screen. If anything else in a purse or backpack set off the alert, the student was asked to step to the side and a staff member checked the specific location. If nothing was detected, the lights stayed green and the line could move quickly.

Dicton watched the first full use of the scanners early Friday and quickly detected a few things himself: Scanner sensitivity may have to be tweaked as staff learn what triggers the red cube and what doesn't, the staff has to get used to actually knowing exactly where to look for any concerns rather than doing a full body check with a wand and checking any bags of a flagged student, and the students need to realize that when one person gets flagged the machine doesn't need to reset, so the next person can keep walking.

"They keep stopping and waiting for it to reset," he said. "They need to learn they don't have to do that anymore."

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish