Schools add vape detectors as part of safety plan

This article originally appeared on The Deaming Headlight. To view the original article, click here

The Deming Public Schools installed vape detectors at Red Mountain Middle School at the start of July and installations at Deming High School will begin in late August.

DPS installed 10 HALO Smart Sensor 2C devices in the middle school. Besides smoke, the devices detect gunshots, aggression (such as fights and loud noises in usually quiet areas) and they monitor carbon dioxide. They also check air quality, temperature and humidity and mitigate against airborne disease by ensuring rooms have been cleaned and air is properly filtered.

Through wifi, the sensors can alert personnel where alarms have been raised directly to the staff members’ devices (phones, laptops, etc.)

DPS learned about the sensors through their team of school resource officers, according to Benny Jasso, the DPS safety director. During the annual SRO training, they received a presentation on vape detectors, specifically the one from HALO.

The sensors are part of an updated safety plan developed after the COVID-19 pandemic. Superintendent Vicki Chávez said the administration noticed a change in students’ behaviors, including daily use of vapes, which have become “very popular among teens.”

“I don’t think they or their parents understand how dangerous the vapes are to their lungs and their overall health, so we just want to help curb it and get a handle on it,” Chávez said.

Chávez reported approximately 330 vapes were confiscated during the last school year. Based on interviews with students, DPS learned that a significant amount of the vapes came from students who supplied them from Palomas, Mexico, according to Jasso.

“So these guys were taking orders, buying them in Mexico and bringing them up here and delivering (them),” Jasso said.

The installations at Red Mountain cost approximately $40,000, half of which was funded through a grant from Luna County Crime Stoppers. The other half came from the district budget. The cost will rise close to $100,000 for Deming High School, as its campus is larger and there’s a bigger need for sensors.

Installations won’t begin there until late August due to back orders and not enough supply, according to Chávez. DPS also intends to install detectors at Deming Intermediate School and at the Hofacket building on the DHS campus.

The next projects include the addition of portable metal detectors during school events open to the public, starting this upcoming school year. Chávez said that while they’re not planning to use the detectors for kids entering school, she didn’t rule it out.

“I want our kids to feel like they can come to school and not be intimidated by people who are breaking the rules of the law,” she said. “Our kids need to know that they’re going to be safe and it’s okay to come. And so I think we just have been looking at what are the best practices across the country, and what can we afford to do and when can we afford to do it.”

Another project is replacing the shade structures over the recreational areas at district elementary schools with metal structures. The current structures are made of sail cloth, which leave children vulnerable to high temperatures. According to Chávez, they expect that project to reach $1 million and hope to have it in place in the next two years.

DPS follows safety plan updates from the state of New Mexico, which occur every three years. The nationwide shootings were also the reason for the continuous updates in the safety measurements at DPS, according to Jasso.

“We’re having a lot of issues, so anything we can do to help the administration deal with those issues — this is great technology. It just makes sense for us as far as safety goes,” Jasso said.