Saline Area Schools is bringing the fight against vaping to the local level at Saline High School with the initiation of a 30-day pilot program of a new sightless security system.
The Halo Smart Sensor is primarily presented and marketed as a vape detection system that can remotely alert the system's administrators to air quality changes that indicate that vaping is occurring.
Saline High School Assistant Principal Kirk Evenson said recently that vaping among the student body in Saline has been an increasing problem over the past three or four years. He said that building administration at the high school felt it was time to take action.
"Basically what we're seeing is a small tick in the number of vaping incidents at Saline High School over the last three or four years, so we really felt like it was time to do this with some technology and get that working on our side," Evenson said.
He and SHS Principal David Raft, along with supporting staff at the high school, have visited some nearby local school districts that are already using Halo, in addition to making phone inquiries to other districts further away to vet reactions to its effectiveness.
Evenson said that a "couple" of undisclosed bathrooms at the high school have been chosen as testbeds for the Halo system during the pilot program period. After the 30 days are up, high school administrators will come back to the Board of Education, perhaps to propose a fuller installation of Halo throughout the building.
Halo also detects other chemical changes in the air, in addition to monitoring sound in order to detect "aggressive behavior" and even gunshots.
Evenson said the system is appealing to him since it will allow an extension of the building's existing security system, which is currently primarily reliant on video cameras, into the bathrooms without bringing the visual surveillance element into the mix in an environment where that would be a gross violation of privacy.
With regard to bathrooms, the Halo system and the high school's existing camera system will work hand-in-hand to detect violations of school policy by students and apprehend those who take such action.
"We will be able to integrate (Halo) with our camera system ... we will see who exits the bathroom during those incidents, in the event that we don't literally catch them in the act," Evenson said.
The Halo system will be ceiling mounted, will be wired connected to the school's network, and will be constantly improved via manufacturer software and firmware updates, meaning that Halo will evolve as a functional security countermeasure in the district on an ongoing basis.
School Board President Heidi Pfannes praised the idea of bringing Halo into the high school.
"I wanted to say that I think this is wonderful," she said. "I have friends who are nurses and doctors, who said that the damage done to children and anybody in their lungs from vaping is far worse than cigarette smoke and it destroys their lungs."
Board Trustee Susan Eestep asked Evenson if Halo could be used elsewhere, and he responded that it could be placed in locker rooms, if need be.