Author Archives: Stan Jester

Metal Detectors at YOUR School

To have metal detectors or not to have metal detectors at our schools, that is the question.

Stan Jester
DeKalb County
Board Of Education

School Safety – Where are we?
The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) has already taken numerous steps to address safety issues on our campuses. In 2016, our schools upgraded their security systems (including cameras). Additionally, enhanced web filters were added to our technology platform to alert district officials of Google searches involving words that might pose threats to the school environment (bombs, suicide, murder, guns, kill, etc. are only a few of the words included in our filter).

The new construction of school buildings now includes roll down doors that help to increase security if a non-authorized individual enters the school premises. The Public Safety Department has also purchased mobile hand metal detectors to use in middle and high schools for random searches when threats may be suspected.

DCSD is ramping up the presence of Public Safety Department Sergeants and Safe School Personnel in schools. To assist with curtailing weapons and illegal substances on school grounds, the Public Safety Department now includes the K-9 Unit.

Walk Through Metal Detectors
On Monday, DCSD Board of Education narrowly approved a pilot program to purchase 20 walk through metal detectors for $150,000. This does not include trained personnel to run them.

The pilot will place 4 metal detectors at 5 high school sites:

  • Cross Keys High School- Region 1
  • Lakeside High School- Region 2.
  • Stone Mountain High School- Region 3
  • Martin Luther King Jr. High School- Region 4
  • Towers High School- Region 5

Is this Style Over Substance? I have quite a few concerns about the efficacy and logistics of having 4 metal detectors at a school with numerous trailers and over 2,000 students with computers.

I thought the conversations at the board meeting were fascinating. Two things stuck out: 1) The administration doesn’t have a plan for how this is going to work. 2) The most important thing to the board members in the South is that the schools in the North get metal detectors.

I’ve cut and posted the discussions at the bottom.

A Lakeside High School parent sent me this email concisely delineating the issues many people have with metal detectors at our schools.

From: Lakeside High School Parent
Subject: Metal Detectors – School Safety Pilot Program

While I am happy that the BOE is addressing school safety measures, I have some concerns about the recently-approved metal detectors pilot program.

My children attend Lakeside High School, one of the schools selected for this program. As you can see in the chart below from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, with 4 metal detectors in a school of over 2,000 students, hundreds of students will be lined up each morning, waiting to pass through one of four metal detectors.

How will the DeKalb County School District be addressing the logistics involved with this pilot program to add metal detectors? What additional resources will be provided to the Lakeside Administration to allow them to carry out this program effectively?

Where will these metal detectors be placed? Lakeside’s main building, where most students enter from the bus lane, was built in the 1960s with low ceilings, narrow hallways, and a very small “lobby” area between the counseling and main/attendance offices.

How will metal detectors impact the ability of students and staff to exit the building safely and efficiently during a fire or other emergency? Will the Fire Marshall be supervising the placement of the new equipment and assessing the potential impact on safety?

Where will students wait to pass through metal detectors on rainy days or when the temperature is at or below freezing?

Will there be conveyor belts or tables for students to place their chrome books, keys, cellphones, etc…? Will there be space provided for students to repack their belongings before entering hallways?

How will delays in passing through the metal detectors impact first period instructional time? Will students be permitted to enter the building earlier to minimize delays? Will teachers be required to report to school earlier to help monitor students?

Will students who enter school after the tardy bell rings have to report to the cafeteria for a tardy pass, which is the current protocol? Will tardy students be subject to routine disciplinary action, such as before or after school detention? Who will staff additional detentions?

If SROs and our school Police Officer are monitoring metal detectors, who will direct traffic on Briarcliff Road, where there is a dangerous left hand turn to enter the school and no crosswalk for students who walk to school? With the SROs occupied, who will monitor students in the bus lanes, parking lots, cafeteria, and hallways? You might recall that I shared with you a video of a fistfight that took place at LHS last Fall. Will schools in this pilot program be provided with increased funding for additional SROs?

What about the students in portable classrooms? Will they be required to pass through a metal detector to re-enter the building? If so, will their instructional time be cut short to allow them to reach their next class on time?

Due to congestion in the hallways, some students have found it faster to walk outside to reach their next period classes. Will this be discontinued? How will the BOE address overcrowded hallways?

Many students currently eat lunch outside, as there are not enough seats for them in the cafeteria. Will they be required to pass through a metal detector to re-enter the school?

What about events held before or after school? Will metal detectors be in place and monitored for students who arrive early for morning tutorials and clubs? How about students and parents who return to school for meetings, concerts, plays, practices, and athletic events? Will they also pass through detectors?

How was Lakeside selected for this pilot program? Have there been incidents of weapons in the school? Have there been more credible safety threats at LHS than at other schools?

Given the many questions surrounding this pilot program, I hope the BOE will encourage the school system staff to respond to logistical concerns ASAP.

I also hope the BOE will address the concerns raised by the LHS Parent Council, PTSA, Lakeside Cluster Summit, Parents, Students, and community members, united in our opposition to plans to build a 38-classroom addition at Lakeside. Those of us familiar with the Lakeside campus know that the proposed addition is not a good solution to overcrowding and will likely lead to more disruptions to instruction and complications to school safety.

We need more small high schools, where staff members know their students and can create caring communities that foster success, not mega-schools with multiple building additions crammed onto small, land-locked properties.

Please request that DCSD provide viable alternatives to the proposed high school additions and answers to community concerns regarding the logistics of the metal detector pilot program. Our children are counting on you.




School Safety – What’s the Plan?
February 25, 2018 – Six people were arrested at one school in one day in two different incidents. What’s the plan to keep our schools safe?

Building Additions – Project Plan and Schedule

The SPLOST V building additions at Lakeside HS (LHS), Chamblee Charter HS (CCHS) and Dunwoody HS (DHS) will be “classroom additions and necessary core space additions and/or parking spaces”. But what does that really mean?

I met with Joshua Williams, the Chief Operating Officer, and the other board members on Monday. The building additions project includes the following:

* Classroom additions
* Kitchen extension
* Cafeteria extension
* New/extended media center addition
* New parking

Each building addition project has a specific budget. Whatever money is left over from the building additions, will go into the district wide E-SPLOST Contingency Fund. There will absolutely not be any renovations done to other areas of the school with building additions budget unless they are impacted by the original projects.

In March 2017, the board and administration passed a schedule for all E-SPLOST V projects. That schedule has not changed. At DHS, engineers are looking into the possibility of separating out the field renovations project and doing that early.

Project Description Budget Anticipated Overall Start Date Anticipated Construction Start Date Anticipated Construction Finish Date Anticipated Overall Finish Date
Chamblee HS 30-classroom addition $21,540,000 Mar. 2017 Nov. 2018 Jul. 2020 Oct. 2020
New Cross Keys HS New 119-classroom high school $84,800,000 Aug. 2017 Sep. 2019 Sep. 2021 Jun. 2022
Lakeside HS 38-classroom addition and synthetic turf installation $26,990,000 Nov. 2018 Jul. 2020 Mar. 2022 Jun. 2022
Dunwoody HS 26-classroom addition and synthetic turf installation $17,690,000 Feb. 2019 Oct. 2020 Jun. 2022 Sep. 2022
Peachtree MS 26-classroom addition $14,100,000 Oct. 2019 Jun. 2021 Feb. 2023 May. 2023

$85 million was budgeted for a New Cross Keys HS at the former Briarcliff HS site (or cost-neutral alternative site). A majority of the new Cross Keys High School population will live West of I-85 plus students from Sagamore and/or perhaps Oak Grove. The current Briarcliff HS site is East of I-85 on Druid Hills Rd and sits on 17.6 acres.

E-SPLOST V also includes artificial turf installation at 19 high schools. At LHS and DHS, the turf installation will happen at the same time as the building additions.