Reports of shots fired on Thursday compelled a Belleville Catholic school to change its recess location for the remainder of the school year.
Our Lady Queen of Peace School, in Belleville, decided the “most prudent plan” for outside play is to keep the children on the North Belt West side of the building, Principal Sharon Needham said. She informed parents of the change by letter on Thursday. Students had been using the back field – the area between the school and the apartments – every other day for recess, Needham said. The students are also used to playing out front when the school has “high volume” traffic days, such as funerals or elections.
Detective Sgt. Mark Heffernan confirmed police were investigating shots fired in the Regency Court Apartments area. He said police were called about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, and have three individuals in custody. There were no injuries and Heffernan said no buildings were hit.
“It is not a random act of shots being fired in the area; there is a specific purpose behind the incident,” Heffernan said.
A police officer came to the school to inform that they were investigating a shots fired call, she said, at nearby Regency Court Apartments. The school’s parking lot, soccer field and parking for the apartments are between the Regency and school buildings.
Police did not recommend lockdown procedures, Needham said.
“I feel anytime the police are called close to school, I feel it is our responsibility to inform parents,” Needham said Friday morning.
Parent Rita Reeves Foster, whose youngest is a seventh-grader at the school, feels the school handled the situation appropriately.
“Obviously there is more room for the older kids to spread out and play their games on the back lot, but they will adapt. It certainly gives me a little peace of mind,” said Foster, who has four children.
Needham said the police visit was a surprise and said the school “has not had chronic problems, or heard or seen anything over there,” referring to the apartments. Needham said that five or six years ago, police did cordon off the neighborhood and the school had to postpone or cancel some evening sports activities, but that was the last time she recalls changing any school events or schedule because of possible criminal activity.
Heffernan said police have been called to the area three times since January, but “nothing like this.” They were called for a domestic disturbance, reported burglary and a noise complaint.
The last day of school is May 26. Needham said any long-term decision about recess placement would be made with consultation from the school board and the final decision would be from Superintendent Father Matthew Elie.
“I would like to get input from the police department as to what exactly is going ... we’ll take all factors into consideration,” she said.