Since our first message on Saturday, we have continued to hear from members of the St. Mary’s Dominican High School (DHS) community expressing concern about the recent environmental clean-up activity that occurred in Gert Town. We are working diligently to answer your questions. We understand the concerns and want to assure you that the safety of our students, staff, alumnae and other members of the Dominican community is and has always been our highest priority. We also appreciate your words of encouragement for the entire Dominican community, as we gather information and talk to each other.
We learned of the City’s clean-up efforts in Gert Town through news reports and had no advance notice from any public entity. As soon as we became aware of the situation, we contacted the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to determine if our campus was within the area of concern.
Based on the information we have gathered and discussions with state officials, we can confirm that the entire DHS campus and surrounding streets are outside the clean-up area where the underground materials in question and any related radiation were detected. This area is several blocks away from campus and posed no threat to the safety of our students, staff, alumnae or visitors to our campus. As we stated we would do, DHS continues to communicate with DEQ, our legal counsel and other parties to address our community’s concerns.
Additionally, DHS officials have reviewed the history of our campus as far back as the 1800s and have concluded:
Prior to the construction of St. Mary’s Dominican High School, the site was vacant.
In the early 1800s, the land was owned by the McCarty family.
The Archdiocese obtained the property that is now Dominican High School in 1921 and used it as an open baseball field on occasion.
In 1960, the property was acquired by the Dominican Sisters for the construction of the new high school campus.
We can also confirm that during the last 25 years, DHS has conducted environmental tests on our campus, including water and air testing prior to receiving approval to reopen following Hurricane Katrina. The tests confirmed that our campus is safe for our students, faculty, staff and visitors.
We believe in communicating effectively and leading others with dignity. In situations such as this, we listen and communicate, as we teach and learn from each other. We are aware that false and misleading information has been circulated regarding this matter, and we are working to present the facts about our site. Our goal is to avoid communicating any inaccurate information which could lead to more speculation and fear. We encourage our entire community to do the same. Please know that our highest priority will always be the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, alumnae and other members of the Dominican community. We want those who have shared struggles with their health to feel heard and supported.
We will continue to work with city, state and environmental officials to review this situation and will provide updates as warranted.
Cynthia A. Thomas, Ed. D., President
Carolyn F. Favre, M. Ed., Principal