CRANFORD - Back in June of 2019, the Cranford Board of Education began looking into vaping detectors after seeing one used at a safety and security conference.

With the use of vapes by teenagers on the rise, Cranford's Safety and Wellness Committee started to research several devices and speak with a few schools in Union County that have already installed them. After a few months of deliberation, the Board decided to move forward to bring in the "Halo Smart Sensor" vape detectors for the bathrooms of Cranford High School.

"They're designed similar to a smoke detector, but with a non-alarming system, so a sound is not going to trigger. It will trigger a message to be sent to a computer or a phone that there's an issue in a certain area," said Cranford High School Principal Mark Cantagallo. "Based on our research, demonstrations with the company, and feedback from other school districts, they're functioning and useful to help prevent this challenge that honestly every school in New Jersey, middle and high school, is tackling."

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According to the Halo Smart Scensor website, "HALO IOT Smart Sensor is a multi-sensor capable of detecting vape, smoke, and abnormal sounds like shouting in areas a camera cannot be placed. Additional sensors give HALO the ability to monitor air quality for temperature, humidity, hazardous chemicals and more!"

Prinicipal Cantagallo wanted to reinforce again that these detectors do not record video or conversation, but it can detect if there is possibly a fight going on if it generates an abnormal decibel level.

Cranford High School already has an "Adapt Program" that helps educate students if they're involved with vaping, smoking, or even drugs and alcohol, and this is yet another step taken by the Board of Education to prevent substance usage, educate the students about the dangers associated, and maintain a healthy and safe environment. 

"We have a safe school," added Cantagallo. "We don't see fighting in the bathrooms. We don't see the use of drugs or alcohol on school grounds. Do we have similar issues that every school has where we may hear a suspicion of something here or there? We do, and we take care of it. The key is we are not here to punish them. We're here to assist them."

Mr. Cantagallo mentioned that in his 10 years as a principal, he has not had to discipline one student for smoking cigarettes in school or on school grounds and the push of anti-tobacco companies has basically eliminated cigarette use among students. He and Cranford Board of Education member Mr. William Hulse say that pushing the anti-vape message is now the new challenge. 

"People say you can punish, but our mission is to work as a community with the parents, police department, and the schools to educate the students, not punish," said Hulse. "It's more important to educate the students on the issues that involve vaping, and then we can get them help."

According to Mr. Cantagallo, the installation of the vape detectors should be complete prior to the end of February.

"This isn't a secret," added Hulse. "It's not an 'I got you' moment. It's something we want to make sure is communicated properly to the parents and communicated properly to the students so everybody knows they're there."

While these detectors will first be installed in Cranford High School, the hope is that if they're successful in stopping and deterring vaping, the Cranford Board of Education will look to budget for additional detectors in Orange Avenue and Hillside Avenue Schools. 

"Students have to feel safe," said Hulse. "In this environment, if you're thinking about something else, you're not thinking about learning. If you have that safety aspect and mindfulness, I think it goes a long way."

If you would like to learn more about the Halo Smart Sensor, the website has an FAQ page on its website that can you view here.