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Horizon School Division set to introduce vape sensor pilot project

Posted on March 14, 2024 by Taber Times

By Brylan Span
Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

At a recent Horizon School Division board meeting held on February 26, Superintendent Dr. Wilco Tymensen shed light on a prevalent concern among administrators – the increasing use of vaping among students within school premises. In response to this issue, the board discussed the possibility of implementing vape sensors as a part of a pilot project across various schools within the division.

Dr. Tymensen addressed the board, stating that the rise in vaping among students has posed a significant challenge for school administrations. He emphasized that traditional smoking has been largely replaced by vaping, which causes a serious issue, especially within school bathrooms. Vape sensors, he explained, are designed to detect nicotine in the air and loud noises, alerting school administrators in real-time of potential vaping or disruptive behaviour. Dr. Tymensen explained that “school administration gets a warning, and then they can wander down to those facilities and it gives them an understanding that there is an issue.”

During the discussion, Ward 3 Trustee Maxwell Holst raised questions about the potential cost and feasibility of installing vape sensors in all school bathrooms. Dr. Tymensen provided estimates, indicating that the cost could range from $8,000 to $10,000 per school for smaller schools, and up to $100,000 to $150,000 between all schools in the division. “For the most part, by the time you are looking at installation they are probably around $2,000 a piece,” said Dr. Tymensen. He further explained that there would be ongoing licensing fees associated with the sensors.

The discussion also delved into the effectiveness of implementing vape sensors in single-use bathrooms and the potential challenges of redirecting student behaviour to other areas. Dr. Tymensen stated that “more often than not it’s a group activity.”

Ward 6 Trustee Mandy Court added, “At least in our school in Milk River with the vaping, is that you get the group congregating in there and then nobody else wants to go in to use the bathroom.”

Addressing concerns about the accuracy and impact of a pilot project, Dr. Tymensen suggested starting with one to two sensors per school to assess their effectiveness before scaling up. He emphasized the need for flexibility in addressing the diverse needs of different school communities.

Following the discussion, a motion was made and carried for a pilot project, with the board agreeing to cover 60 per cent of the costs, utilizing $25,000 from the board’s reserves.

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