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Weapons scanners being installed at one Northern Virginia school

Osbourn High School is the first school in the Northern Virginia region to install the new security screening technology.

MANASSAS, Va. — Osbourn High School in Manassas is set to launch a new security screening technology on Monday.

School officials wrapped up their training on Thursday with a new private security team on how to successfully implement Evolv Express, security lanes that detect weapons like guns and pipe bombs.

“It’s not a metal detector of any kind,” Manassas City Public Schools Executive Director of Finance and Operations Andy Hawkins said. “It uses artificial intelligence to look for shapes in people's backpacks or on their person when they walk through the doors of the school.”

School board members approved Evolv Express in December, months after administrators first considered the technology. They visited Dorchester County Public Schools in Maryland where the district spent a million dollars to deploy the same system in secondary schools.

The school system signed a four-year contract that will cost $104,000 annually.

Evolv Technology can screen up to 4,000 people per hour or 60 people per minute or more than a person each second, according to the website. Students are not required to remove items from their bag before or pockets before going through.

Osbourn High School has about 2,200 students filtering through from 7:50 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.

Hawkins said students can expect to see five scanners in each of the entrances. Three staff members are going to be posted at each site.

If the system detects anything suspicious, the student will have to move to the “resolution desk” where they will be searched. If there is a weapon, that staff member can press a button to alert the student resource officer and administrators.

“We hope our students will feel safer and hope our staff will feel safer,” Hawkins said. “It's not going to fix everything, but it is another layer that will help us feel more comfortable in our schools.”

While staff have undergone training throughout the week, officials believe the rollout will not be a smooth process on Monday.

“We believe that the first couple of days until the students understand the process, as administrative work the process and work the plan, we’re going to have tweaks that’s going to be made,” Hawkins said. “There’s going to have to be some give-and-take with students and administrators. We’re going to work all of those things out.”

While Evolv Express is expected to amplify safety and security, there may be false positives. Since it analyzes shapes, the scanner will also catch metal cylinder shapes. That can include metal water bottles and the metal binding of a laptop.

Hawkins said it will be a tricky balance expediting students into school while providing the extra layer of security.

All of the entrances in the school will open when students arrive, but once classes start, they will be secured except for the main entrance door.

Since students will have to transition from one building to the other for certain classes, the scanners will be operational then.

Prince William County Public Schools has been holding community meetings since officials are also considering the same technology.

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