The Park City School District may soon construct a chain-link fence around the perimeter of Parley's Park Elementary School for safety reasons, but many nearby residents don't believe such a move to be prudent or responsible.
On February 4, Paulette Herman received a letter from Todd Hansen, Director of Building and Grounds for PCSD, concerning the possibility of a six-foot black chain-link fence to be constructed around Parley's Park. The letter was also sent to other residents who live near the school, Herman said, who sent a copy to The Park Record.
The letter began by saying that PCSD had been working with the Utah Division of Homeland Security for the past several months to update the District Safety Plan and that recommended changes were noted, including a perimeter fence. Fences are also being proposed for the other three elementary schools in PCSD, although Jeremy Ranch Elementary already has a fence around part of its building.
"One of the concerns brought to our attention was that our elementary schools do not have fencing around the perimeter," Hansen wrote. "This is highly recommended by the Homeland Security Team and a safety measure that the district believes is vital in protecting our students."
A meeting was also held on February 27 to receive comments from nearby residents on their ideas for securing the perimeter of the school grounds. Gerimae Sih, a resident who lives close to Parley's Park, said she and her husband noticed a surveyor near the school last week that was looking at where the fence could be built.
Sih said that, at the meeting, it was stated the fence would deter children from leaving the school without permission.
"If their reason for the fence is only to curtail kids from leaving school grounds without permission, let me see the facts," Sih said.
PCSD Business Administrator Todd Hauber said that in January of 2013, Homeland Security came to the school for a walkthrough assessment of the building to see which vulnerabilities had not been addressed. One of those vulnerabilities was the ease with which children are able to leave the school grounds or be abducted from the school.
PCSD then organized a safety committee, which proposed a six-foot high black chain-link fence. That committee has been doing research on which types of fencing would be best, Hauber said.
Chris Hadley, who has a son enrolled at Parley's Park, said he understands the push to install a fence may have started with the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. He doesn't think a chain-link fence is the right solution, however.
Hauber said the idea for the fence did not have a "gunman scenario" in mind, emphasizing that the reason for it was to keep children from leaving and from being abducted.
"A lot of studies show those types of fences not only have a very negative impact on educational experiences for the kids but also have a negative impact on real estate values," Hadley said, adding that a six-foot chain-link fence would be very easy to climb for a child.
Herman said she and her husband, who live adjacent to the school, oppose the fence for numerous reasons, including cost (money would be better spent on a school resource officer, she said), aesthetics (a fence would be inconsistent with Park City's tradition of maintaining open spaces) and because she has never seen students leaving the boundaries of the school during recess.
Hadley says the fence would create a "hazard," as kids would want to climb over it. He added the process for its construction has been "very rushed."
"It's a solution without a problem. What are we willing to really give up in terms of our community?" Hadley said.
Hauber said he wants to let concerned residents know that PCSD does not want to rush the fence project through. It will not be discussed at the April 22 School Board meeting, but he said it would most likely be talked about during the next May meeting, with a decision to come shortly after then.