Steps toward security

Students from St. Albert the Great participated in the Gator Walk to raise money for new doors and cameras.

Walk this way: St. Albert the Great Catholic School hosted its first Gator Walk last Thursday. The pre-K through eighth-grade students marched through the school grounds and surrounding community to raise money for security upgrades. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

Last Thursday, 475 students were joined by parents, teachers and one alligator to raise money for a more secure school.

St. Albert the Great Catholic School hosted its first Gator Walk, the spiritual successor of the school’s traditional Race for Education. The pre-K through eighth-grade students marched through the school grounds and surrounding community, led by the school’s alligator mascot.

The students had fun, but the walk also had a serious underlying message.

On March 13, the school was evacuated in response to a bomb threat communicated through email. Nothing came of it, but it did make administration take a closer look at security in the school.

“We had a plan that was set up and worked, but we wanted to improve upon that to make sure our school is as safe and secure as it can possibly be,” said Principal John Schrenk.

Money will go toward replacing the doors, which Schrenk said haven’t been replaced since the school was built circa 1964. The new doors will include electronic entry to eliminate the use of physical keys. The funds will also go toward a new security camera system.

LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

This is Schrenk’s first year as principal, hence the walk’s name change. In years past, the walks raised between $20,000 and $24,000. This year’s figure was not yet ascertained, but before it even started the school had already raised more than $5,000 from sponsors from local businesses and a nearby high school. The goal was to raise $30,000.

Student activism has occupied a large part of the nationwide news cycle since the tragic Parkland, Florida shooting. Schrenk said he had wanted to improve the school’s security when he first became principal, before the events took place.

“I think [what happened at St. Albert] made people more aware of the walk and want to get involved in the walk,” he said.

The school asked each family to donate money, and prizes are given to students who raise certain amounts. If the goal is reached, the school will throw a summer kickoff event June 9. Rosina Santos-Perks, a member of the school’s parents association who helped organize the event, said the kickoff would be like a giant carnival.

Eighth-grade students got to lead the underclassmen and get them amped up during the walk. Schrenk said that before the walk started, the students chanted “Gator Walk” so loud the windows and walls vibrated.

LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

“We’ve done this ever since we’ve gone here, and I’ve been waiting a couple of years to lead the school,” said eighth-grader Gavin Rauch. “They made this the best one ever.”

As the students entered the final stretch, they sang happy birthday to Schrenk. After the march, they stayed outside to enjoy the sunny weather with popsicles.

“They created so much for us to do and there are so many amazing teachers and staff members,” said eighth-grader Sanaa Prince. “I’m going to miss it dearly.” ••