This article originally appeared in the St. Charles Herald Guide and was written by Ryan Arena. To view the original article, click here.
A safety audit of the St. Charles Parish Schools System revealed a 16 percent reduction in items deemed “unsatisfactory” from 2014 to 2016, according to a presentation made at last week’s meeting of the parish’s School Board.
The school system also noted that 727 faculty and staff members of St. Charles Parish Public Schools and 250 of its students participated in the school system’s “active shooter drill” earlier this year.
The presentation was made by St. Charles Parish Public Schools Director of Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Kade Rogers and was accompanied by PowerPoint visual graphs in order to update the public on the school system’s safety initiatives, audit results and safety enhancements.
According to Rogers, 130 items were assessed on the audit, and three percent of items were rated unsatisfactory over the eight schools audited (Albert Cammon, Destrehan and Hahnville High Schools, J.B. Martin, E.J. Landry, Harry Hurst, R.K. Smith and the Satellite Center). Rogers noted the Safe Schools audits occur each year at the middle and high school levels.
The items assessed included fencing, surveillance systems, playgrounds and covered play areas, electronic visitor management systems, lighting, vehicle access, doors and door hardware and signage. The audits are executed by five teams that go through each school at an unannounced time at both morning and dismissal. The audits are run by an outside facilitator and the teams include first responders.
“It’s not something where we go through the schools and turn the other cheek,” Rogers said. “It’s someone going in and giving us real information to ensure that, with the audit process, people are continuing to keep up with our safety standards.”
Only three percent of the items measured by the audits over the eight schools were considered unsatisfactory. Seven of the eight schools saw reductions in the number of unsatisfactory items: Cammon, from 34 to 29; Destrehan, 41 to 35; Hahnville, 39 to 29; J.B. Martin, 34 to 33; E.J. Landry, 20 to 13; Harry Hurst, 30 to 27; and R.K. Smith, 27 to 19. The Satellite Center saw an increase, from 14 to 21.
According to Rogers, of the unsatisfactory items, 49 percent are specific to procedures or school operations for which the specific school is completely responsible for; 16 percent of the items are the responsibility of the maintenance department; 24 percent of the items are the shared responsibility of the schools, maintenance department and district; and 11 percent are the responsibility of child nutrition department, transportation department or those departments sharing responsibility with the school.
The active shooter drill, which took place at Hahnville High School Jan. 20, brought a strong turnout in the fifth year St. Charles Parish has held the exercise. It is intended as a measure to allow officers, fire personnel, medical responders, parish workers, St. Charles Parish Hospital Emergency Room, and school personnel to better respond to a mass casualty event, such as a school shooting or terror attack. 2017 marked the first year the exercise was held at a high school.
This year’s training focused mainly on medical response to a serious incident, a shift from previous exercises.
This year, there was also another layer of the exercise, a “reunification drill” that focused on getting students back to their parents once a site is deemed unsafe.
“It was a phenomenal response from our faculty and staff, not only on site but also for the reunification drill,” Rogers said. “The exercise gives us the chance to practice multiple-level emergency response … we were able to use (reunification) as part of the drill and we got some valuable feedback.
One safety measure that is being finalized is the installation of visitor vestibules installed at the entrance of the district’s schools, which is already in place at a number of schools and that Rogers said is scheduled to be finalized this summer for all school sites. The vestibules require a visitor to be buzzed in before he or she may enter into the student-populated school area from the main office.
Rogers also spoke about the Raptor technology the school system uses to screen visitors, which was put in place before the school year and the school district’s enhanced surveillance system, measures made possible, in part, by a bond approved in 2015.
John Rome, executive director of physical plant services for the St. Charles Parish school district, also spoke at the meeting on safety measures put in place since the bond issue was passed, noting that interior lighting has been replaced and upgraded at all school sites and that light upgrades for the schools’ perimeter is being addressed for both safety and energy efficiency reasons.
He added that the signage installed along some school windows are more than just window dressing.
“They’re not only aesthetically pleasing, but it’s something where we can see out but they can’t necessarily see in,” he said.