HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — A powerful tool is being deployed to sniff out trouble at Hopewell High School.

Hopewell High School administrators say this fall, the school district is bringing in highly-trailed detection dogs to keep the school drug-free. Jessica Gilchrist, a Hopewell High School graduate, said the district is following through on a promise to protect students and staff.

“Everybody wants the police and the school board to do more for the students, and they’re doing it,” said Gilchrist. “High schools nowadays, anything can happen. They have access to any- and everything, practically.”

Law enforcement, accompanied by school administrators, will bring the dogs in to search lockers, bushes and anywhere around the school where contraband may be hiding.

“They’re going in classrooms that are vacant, their backpacks that aren’t on students, cars in parking lots. Things like that,” said Dr. Jay McClain, the district’s Deputy Superintendent.

According to McClain, the measure will improve safety on campus and deter the use and possession of drugs on school grounds.

In a letter sent to Hopewell High School families this week, school administrators said they “will periodically conduct unannounced searches,” assuring the families that these searches will be “conducted in the respectful and non-invasive manner with the utmost consideration for privacy and dignity of all individuals.”

The idea to bring detection dogs into the school was first brought up in Hopewell during a 2021 community meeting, where families demanded increased security measures across the school district.

This is just the latest security measure being employed by a central Virginia school district. In Henrico, students at all nine public high schools will be walking through weapons detectors in their way into class this year — and in Petersburg, all public school students are required to wear clear backpacks starting this year. Hopewell already has a clear bag policy in place at three elementary schools.