HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (KDVR) — STEM School Highlands Ranch is taking a new step toward school safety.

Douglas County commissioners voted to approve a $961,504 grant for a project to install technology called Evolv this spring.

It’s a new version of a metal detector that uses artificial intelligence and supposedly can detect the presence of a weapon without picking up on personal items like cell phones or keys.

This is the same school where a shooter killed Kendrick Castillo and injured at least seven others back in 2019.

AI weapon detector set for soft launch

Nicole Bostel, STEM School’s director of communication, said Commissioner Abe Layden approached them with the idea.

“(He) said that they had funding available for an innovative approach to a security system inside of a school,” Bostel said.

The district has done its homework on beefing up security, visiting facilities that use this technology and also speaking with a school district in North Carolina that uses it.

The 2-1 vote had opposition from Commissioner Lora Thomas, who showed concern about the technology’s effectiveness. But Bostel said that’s why they’re doing a soft launch.

“We know it’s not a perfect system and that’s the reason why we’re doing a pilot program,” Bostel said. “We’re not locked into anything. If, after the pilot program runs out, if it doesn’t work for us, we can go in a different direction.”

To start, they will have only one system installed at the school’s athletics entrance.

“The goal is to then get two more systems to have them in place at our two main entrances for the fall. So, we want to use a portion of the remainder of the school year to kind of test it out,” Bostel said.

Committee to assess Evolv system

They also have an Evolv executive committee in place to access how the system works in the school. It has students, parents and staff alike.

Safety at STEM is a topic still on many parents’ and students’ minds after the 2019 shooting, and it’s one reason they’re taking that extra step.

“We know it’s not perfect, but we know it’s an innovative approach and has worked in other facilities. Could we be the school that helps make it the next thing for school safety? I think it’s a viable option,” Bostel said.

They’re still waiting to receive their first Evolv system but do expect it to be installed within the next month or two.