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St. Peter Catholic School Safer School Proposed Plan

Parent Update - June 19th, 2020

 

The St. Peter Safer School Proposal will be on the July 7th agenda for the Covington City Council beginning at 6:00pm.

 

We encourage all parents who support this important safety proposal to contact the Covington City Council and urge them to no longer delay a vote and to express your support for the Covington City Council to vote YES to St. Peter Catholic Church and School. Any further postponements would put us into the 2020-2021 school year. The updated proposal has been added to this website for your reference.

 

Thank you for supporting St. Peter Catholic Church and School. We will email more specifics about the meeting as they are confirmed, and we look forward to seeing you on July 7th at 6:00pm.

 

God Bless,

St. Peter Catholic School Administration

 

Safer School Proposal

St. Peter Catholic Church and School

June 2020

 

The protection of children is the greatest of all responsibilities we have as adults. Whether as parents, teachers, public servants, clergy, or neighbors, we believe there exists an obligation to care for children by providing for their well-being and safety. Furthermore, it is in our school’s and community’s best interest to keep our children safe, not only from a moral standpoint but from a practical standpoint. Safe and strong schools are an essential part of Covington’s rich history and bright future.

Pavilion

We have had to invest more time, training, and resources into intense safety procedures at our school due to an increase in shootings and tragedies across school campuses in recent years. We can no longer compare operations to 5, 10, or 20 years ago. While many school campuses were not designed to meet current best practices, we cannot use that as a reason to ignore obvious concerns in school safety. We owe it to our families and community to be proactive, rather than reactive. We must put effective measures into place to prevent tragedies rather than react to them.

 

We believe our city leaders understand the great responsibility of keeping our children safe. We have hope that those in leadership would always have the safety and protection of children as their top priority. We sincerely appreciate the City Council taking the time to deliberate our school’s proposal for the addition of pedestrian and street gates for child safety and protection.

 

The bottom line is this: our campus is vulnerable because of existing gaps in our campus perimeter. Visitors have access to staff and students in multiple areas. Proposed solutions regarding how to best keep our children safe may differ, but we believe that at the end of the day, all of us share the common goals of ensuring safety and personal freedom for others, all within reason. It is our hope that by protecting the children entrusted to our care, in the best manner possible, our actions will show everyone that Covington cares for its children and places their safety above all else. With this in mind we propose to the City Council the following:

 

Proposal:

  •  St. Peter Catholic School is requesting the Council’s support of the installation of swinging gates at two particular points on both S Theard Street and E 20th Avenue.
  • These gates would be closed only on school days during school hours (7:45 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.).
Map
 
  • These gates would prevent pedestrian and vehicular access to staff and students on S Theard Street and E 20th Avenue during these hours, Monday-Friday, during the school year.
  • Gates would replace existing yellow gates on S Theard Street deemed necessary by the police chief and mayor more than two decades ago.Gates
 
  • The design of the gates, if approved, would match existing gates and fences on campus.

 

  • St. Peter Catholic School has been a core part of the Covington community since 1878.
  • Approximately 775 students (ages 3-13) and 80 staff members are on campus any given day.
  • Students and staff are required to move across the open campus throughout the school day resulting in public access risk.
  • Each year, during school hours and on numerous occasions, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others without permission to be on campus have traveled across campus by way of E 20th Avenue, S Theard Street, and Temperance Street.
  • Though fencing does exist around a large portion of St. Peter, areas near the E 20th Avenue and S Theard Street intersection, as well as the Temperance Street and S Theard Street intersection, are still open, and that leaves our campus in a vulnerable position.

 GroupPurpose:

 

  • Create a single point of entry for the campus during school hours only.
  • Ensure the safety of staff and students residing in the core buildings (i.e., cafeteria, office, and classrooms) of the campus where there is a constant flow of staff and students throughout the day. All other student travel, such as to the church, would be controlled releases through the gates with supervision from faculty and staff.
  • Significantly reduce the risk of vehicles and pedestrians having access to students and staff during school hours.

 

History:

 

  • October 2019 - Councilman Verret met with school parents and staff to discuss safety concerns at St.Peter and the possibility of installing gates for additional safety. The proposal was later discussed with the Covington safety committee without any objections.
  • January 14, 2020 - Proposal was presented to City Council with support of Chief Culotta. It was decided a community informational meeting was necessary before voting.
  • January 28, 2020 - Informational Community Meeting was held at St. Peter.
  • March 10, 2020 - The Council voted to consult the Attorney General regarding its authority to decide on the school’s proposal.
  • In a letter dated April 27, 2020, the Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry concluded, “The Covington City Council has the legal authority to enact an ordinance authorizing the closure of the municipal streets contiguous to St. Peter Catholic School with gates during school hours pursuant to a legitimate exercise of its police power.”

  Fire

Current Safety Procedures at St. Peter:

 

  • Adoption of the Rave Panic Button smartphone app currently being made available by Governor John Bel Edwards for the 2020-2021 school year:
  • App

 

  • Fire, tornado, and lockdown drills held throughout the school year
  • Annual review of the School Crisis Plan and regular meetings with the Crisis Team
  • Attendance at the monthly Covington Police Meeting by the school’s Dean of Students
  • Active shooter training offered for faculty and staff (e.g., FEMA’s AWR148: Crisis Management Agency, FLETC: Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, hosted by Covington Police Department, VATA: Vulnerability Assessment and Threat Analysis active shooter training, hosted by former superintendent of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and active shooter training hosted by the East Baton Rouge SWAT team)
  • Video cameras installed in all campus buildings
  • Increased level of supervision and number of duty teachers during recess hours
  • Automatic-lock exterior doors installed in all buildings
  • Exterior gates locked during the school day
  • All visitors required to check-in through the school office’s computer system
  • All visitors required to wear visible, school-approved, name and destination badges
  • Safe Environment screening/background checks for campus volunteers and chaperones required by the Archdiocese of New Orleans

  Soul

Addressing Concerns:

 

  • Proposed barriers are purely for safety measures during school hours. There is no intent to increase either the school footprint or increase student enrollment. It is not possible to increase enrollment based on street safety measures.
  • The location of proposed barriers will have no impact on St. Peter School or SSA car line procedures.
  • Traffic related to SSA and St Paul will not be impacted as the gates would be open by this time.
  • Based on a review conducted by Sain Associations in January 2020, a standard traffic impact study for this situation would not yield relevant information and is not necessary.
  • Proposed barriers will be in place 177 days a year for approximately 7.25 hours a day, meaning the roadways will be open 85% of the time.
  • We continue to invest in safety measures every year. While hiring a campus security guard is a viable secondary measure, the campus’s exterior must first be secure with a single point of entry.

 

In conclusion, we acknowledge this has been a contentious proposal that has been the focus of many formal and informal discussions in our community. There is no question that this proposal would significantly increase the safety of all staff and students at our school, located in the heart of Covington. While we certainly appreciate other perspectives, we believe that all of us share a sacred responsibility - the safety and protection of our children. Our children deserve the safest environment we can provide. Giving them anything less would be detrimental to our community and the families within it. We want to thank the City Council for its consideration of the proposed safety ordinances at the July council meeting.

Below is a message one of our parents shared with us after he sent it to his local councilperson. We feel it is appropriate to share with parents, family and friends of St. Peter that support this resolution.
 
Dear Councilperson _____________,
 

I am writing to you as a concerned parent, citizen, and voter of district _____. I would like to express my complete support in passing the resolution to have St. Peter Catholic School install two sets of gates that would be used during school hours, in hopes to secure the campus. In today’s school environment creating a safe campus for our children is a number one priority of all schools across the nation, and Covington should be no exception.
 
I urge the council to no longer delay the vote on this proposal. Please vote YES to BOTH ordinances. 

 

The following is a list of Covington City Council members if you would like to share your thoughts on this proposal:

 

Cody Ludwig, District D: cludwig@covla.com
Joey Roberts, District C: jroberts@covla.com
Peter Lewis, District A: plewis@covla.com
John Botsford, District B: jbotsford@covla.com
Mark Verett, District E: mverret@covla.com
Larry Rolling, At Large: lrolling@covla.com
Diane Weiss (Interim at Large): goweiss@bellsouth.net

 

Below is a list of all city council member addresses that can be copy and pasted for email purposes:

 

goweiss@bellsouth.net;lrolling@covla.com;mverret@covla.com;jbotsford@covla.com;plewis@covla.com;jroberts@covla.com;cludwig@covla.com

 

 

Council District Map:

 

https://www.covla.com/city_council/docs/Covington%20Council%20Districts%2011%20X%2017.pdf

 

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The St. Peter Catholic School Safer School Proposal is discussed at approximately the 21 minute mark of the March 10th, 2020 City Council meeting video.
.

 

We have proposed a plan to the City Council of Covington to better secure our school campus. Specifically, we are requesting the ability to install gates during school hours that would eliminate pedestrian and vehicle access to students on Theard Street and a portion of 20th Avenue in front of our middle school building. As our Holy Family Center building is being completed, this would make St. Peter Catholic School a single point of entry campus for the first time in its history. It would make our school significantly safer for all our students, families and staff.

  • 7:45 am - 3:00 pm
  • Monday - Friday
  • 177 school days a year
  • Under 14.65% of the year
  • Gates would remain open on weekends/holidays and when school is closed
______________________________________________________________________________________________
 
 
Below is a message one of our parents shared with us after he sent it to his local councilperson. We feel it is appropriate to share with parents, family and friends of St. Peter that support this resolution.
 
Dear Councilperson _____________,

I am writing to you as a concerned parent, citizen, and voter of district _____. I would like to express my complete support in passing the resolution to have St. Peter Catholic School install two sets of retractable gates that would be used during school hours, in hopes to secure the campus. In today’s school environment creating a safe campus for our children is a number one priority of all schools across the nation, and Covington should be no exception. By allowing the school to install these gates it would become a single entry point campus, vastly improving the security of the school. This would only restrict traffic a total of 14% of the year, allowing traffic to flow as normal 86% of the year. It is our duty and our obligation to protect the most vulnerable in our society, our children. I am writing to you in hopes that you will be proactive in responding to this concern and not be irresponsible in allowing our children to be at risk.

 

 

 

Letter to St. Peter Families from Principal Michael Kraus on January 22, 2020

 

Dear St. Peter Families,

I am writing to update you on an ongoing discussion between St. Peter Catholic School and the City of Covington.  As educators, your children's safety at our school is our foremost priority.  In the wake of so many tragedies around the country involving schools, we have developed a plan to be proactive in providing a safer environment for your children.  We want to prevent direct access to our school children by strangers during the school day.  As you know, we face a variety of logistical challenges with such an open campus, and we feel that this concern needs to be addressed.  We want to be proactive rather than reactive.

Therefore, Father Otis and I have proposed a plan to the City Council of Covington to better secure our school campus.  Specifically, we are requesting the ability to install gates during school hours that would eliminate pedestrian and vehicle access to students on Theard Street and a portion of 20th Avenue in front of our middle school building.  As our Holy Family Center building is being completed, this would make St. Peter Catholic School a single point of entry campus for the first time in its history.  It would make our school significantly safer for all of our students, families and staff.

At the City Council's recent meeting on January 14th, the proposal was considered, then tabled due to concerns expressed from neighbors about its implementation.  There were misunderstandings about the plan, and we agreed that an informational meeting hosted by the school would be beneficial to our neighbors and families.  We hope this meeting will ensure correct information is provided to everyone in our community.

This informational meeting will be held in our school cafeteria next Tuesday, January 28th, from 6:00pm - 7:00pm. 

Mark Verret, Councilman for District E, has graciously agreed to help facilitate this meeting.  It is our hope and prayer that through a better understanding of this proposal, it will be passed with enthusiasm and support from our families and our community.

The following is a link to the Covington City Council's contact page if you would like to share your thoughts on this proposal:  https://www.covla.com/city_council/contact_information.php

Again, your support is appreciated and encouraged at the meeting on Tuesday, January 28th.  Thank you for entrusting your children to St. Peter Catholic School. 

 

God Bless,

 

Michael Kraus

Principal

St. Peter Catholic School

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________ 

The St. Peter Catholic School Safer School Proposal is presented at approximately the 44 minute mark of the January 14th, 2020 City Council meeting video.
 
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Click the image below to view the presentation given by members of St. Peter Catholic School's faculty and staff at a community informational meeting held Tuesday, January 28th.