Waterloo School Board Votes To Approve Purchase Of Vape Detectors

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WATERLOO — Waterloo Community Schools is attempting to put a stop to sneaky smoking.

The Board of Education Monday unanimously approved the $127,516 purchase of vape detectors for East, West and Expo high schools as well as the Waterloo Career Center. Vape pens, also known as e-cigarettes, heat up liquid to create a vapor that is inhaled. They can contain nicotine, flavoring or cannabis oil.

Zach Kelly, the district’s director of operational services, said the detectors have been a “hot topic” for school officials.

Not only can the devices sense vapor, they can detect aggression, gunshots, and carbon dioxide.

“This is just a layer to add additional safety to prevent things from becoming major incidents,” board president Sue Flynn said.

The devices monitor vape particles in the air by detecting the parts per million. Using similar science, the aggression and gunshot sensors detect decibels of noise. The sensors can be adjusted for sensitivity.

If the sensors are set off, a notification is sent to a phone or email address.

Kelly said he is working through the policy of how this would be monitored. His initial thought was to have the building principals monitor it but the board believed that could be too overwhelming.

The detectors would be installed where there are currently cameras. They will also be put in bathrooms.

In the areas with cameras, Kelly said the detectors would be integrated with the camera system. If something was detected, the camera would start recording.

Another feature of the devices is that they detect tampering.

Kelly said he talked to other school districts using the devices to gather references. He said they reported good success.

“Students have gotten creative to trick the system but, overall, it’s been very successful,” he said.