For the past week and a half students at Riverside-Brookfield High School have seen a new sight in the hallways during passing periods and at other times. That’s Assistant Principal John Passarella, wearing a helmet, zipping around the school on a Segway.
Segway of Chicago, a LaGrange dealership that is owned by Riverside Village Trustee James Reynolds, has lent RB a Segway to try out for two weeks free of charge. When this week ends and the trial period is over, Passarella will prepare a report to Interim Principal Tim Scanlon and Interim Superintendent David Bonnette, and the administrative team will decide whether it wants to purchase any Segways.
“We’re trying to figure out whether or not it’s a tool that we believe is something we want for the security team,” Passarella said. “We’ve gained 80,000 additional square feet, and we haven’t gained a security guard, and I’m trying to be cost effective.”
RB currently has four security guards, Passarella said.
The Segway is a two-wheeled battery powered personal transportation device that can travel up to 12.5 mph. Inside the school, the Segway is typically set to its turtle speed of 6 mph.
The machine, which is barely wider than a human body, is controlled by two computers and five solid-state gyroscopes and allows the rider to maneuver the machine by leaning with his body, as Passarella demonstrated to a reporter in an empty RB hallway Monday afternoon after school.
It has dynamic stabilization technology that allows the Segway to remain balanced as it is being controlled by the rider.
It is as easy and safe as walking, Reynolds said, and can be used even in crowded places such as school hallways.
“As you tilt your body forward the machine moves forward,” Reynolds said. “If you stand upright the machine stops. If you tilt slightly backward it starts to move slightly backward. So if you’re standing on your feet and you don’t bump into people, you won’t do it on the machine either, once you’re properly trained, so it’s perfect for dense populations like a school, because you can maneuver quickly and easily, yet you can also move with the flow of pedestrian traffic.”
In addition to using the Segway to monitor the hallways, Passarella said that he has been using the machine outdoors to monitor parking and at home football games. Dean of Students Dave Sibley and security guard Denise Delgado have also been trained on the Segway and are currently using it during the school day.
“It covers a lot of ground,” Sibley said. “It’s an excellent tool.”
Passarella said that the Segway allows him to do a perimeter check of the school much faster than he could do it on foot.
The expansion of RB has left the school building with some very long hallways and the Segway allows school personnel to respond quickly to any incidents.
“We’re able to get from Point A to Point B very quickly,” Passarella said.
Segways are used by many police departments and on some college campuses, Reynolds said. He said he didn’t know if any Segways are currently used in any high schools.
The rider stands on a platform eight inches above the ground or floor which gives the rider a good view and enhances the visibility of school staff, Passarella said.
RB sophomore Cayla Cerny agreed.
“You can see who’s in charge more, because last year you couldn’t hardly see who the security officers were and now you can see them a lot easier,” Cerny said.
The Segway model that RB is trying out, the i2, costs $5,350. An optional front bag, useful to store confiscated cellphones, costs another $130.
Bonnette said that he would act to get input from the school board before making a final decision even though board approval is required only for purchases of items costing $10,000 or more.
Bonnette said he wasn’t sure when a decision would be made.
“We don’t have any specific timetable,” Bonnette said.
Bonnette said he would run the idea by the board’s facilities and finance committees before making any final decision.