Ignacio school district buys detectors to deter vaping

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IGNACIO – The Ignacio School District will use vape detectors to deter students from vaping on school grounds.

Staff members will install the devices, which look like a smoke detector, in bathrooms to recognize vaping or loud noises that could indicate fights or gunshots. Monday, the Ignacio school board voted unanimously to purchase two vape detectors – $1,350 each – to start a pilot project and test the product’s effectiveness.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Brian Crane, the district’s technology director, during the school board meeting. “Let’s get a couple in the bathrooms. Let’s see what kind of results we get before we go out and spend a large amount of money.”

Only one nearby school district, Dolores, uses the relatively new technology, according to the Bayfield and Ignacio superintendents. The Dolores Re-4A district confirmed using the detectors, but did not respond Friday to requests for comment.

Durango School District 9-R does not use vape detectors, said spokeswoman Julie Popp.

The Bayfield School District also does not use the detectors and views them as an “expensive last resort,” said Kevin Aten, Bayfield superintendent.

Right now, Bayfield and Durango focus on deterring vaping through education and supervision.

“We all wish we weren’t dealing with it,” Aten said. “They’ve marketed to young kids, and it’s just become a really tough issue for all of us in the school business.”

At the Ignacio board meeting, members discussed how the product works, where to place it and whether to tell students about it.

The Halo vape detector uses 12 sensors to recognize hundreds of changes in its environment, according to the company’s website.

It can recognize smoke, vaping products and THC, the principal psychoactive compound in cannabis. The Halo also recognizes abnormal sounds such as gunshots, and carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds and other air quality elements. It does not record video or audio.

“There’s not a ton of research out there for people using it. They’ve sold quite a few, and other schools are reporting good findings,” Crane said.

When the detector senses vaping, an alarm blares and the system immediately sends an alert to staff members (depending on installation settings). Because it can connect to video surveillance systems, staff members can crosscheck alerts with video footage outside the bathroom to see who went in and out.

The detector can also send alerts when someone is tampering with it.

“Do we have to tell the students that we’re doing this?” said Kara Pearson, board president, at the meeting.

Yvonne Chapman and Allen McCaw spoke in favor of telling students, in part to deter vaping. Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto said the district would not tell students which bathrooms would house the detectors.

Crane recommended against telling the students immediately, in hopes of gathering data on how the detectors work. In an interview, he said the district planned to move the detectors at first, then determine a permanent location. The district said it plans to gather data from the detectors, but previously has not gathered data.

“Just having them will be a deterrent,” Crane said during the meeting. “Once you catch a kid or two, word will spread.”