Park City Board of Education continues fence plan, despite opposition
Community members spoke out against the enclosure, saying it would decrease safety
After officials approved $3 million expenditure to renovate school safety features, the Park City School District hit a speed bump.
At a meeting at Parley’s Park Elementary School last week, community members fervently vocalized their opposition to the district’s plan to install a fence around the perimeter of the school. After the meeting, the Park City Board of Education agreed to delay the construction of the fence.
School officials plan to install fencing around McPolin Elementary School and Trailside Elementary School as well. Jeremy Ranch Elementary School already has a fence.
The neighbors of Parley’s Park thought they had buried the controversy of fencing the school three years ago, said Alison Godlewski, whose property borders the school. She said in an interview afterward the meeting was “quite the debacle” and felt that nothing was accomplished.
The meeting was supposed to discuss several of the safety measures that the Board hopes to implement at the schools, including new, auto-locking magnetized interior doors and a visitor access system that requires every visitor to check in at the front office, said Andrew Caplan, president of the Board. Community members had few complaints on this front, but they spoke up once the issue of fencing was brought to the table.
Caplan said he and the rest of the Board approached the evening with the idea that fence installation was a definite yes. Godlewski said she and other community members were under the impression that the issue was still up for debate.
“Members of the community were really disappointed that the school board had led us to believe that they wanted community involvement and community input, and at the meeting they were told the decision was already made,” she said.
The only suggestions the Board was looking for about the fence was its design, Caplan said. At the meeting, it created a committee made up of parents and headed by Jody Curtis, whose property borders the school. The group will decide where the fence will run and what material will be used, Caplan said. It must submit a proposal for the fence by Jan. 31 with the expectation that the fence will be installed in April.
“As a district, we want to be good neighbors,” Caplan said. “We realize that putting up a fence is not ideal in terms of aesthetics, so we want to make sure that we do what we can to mitigate those types of issues. We’re going to work with the neighbors to get it done.”
He said that, while there was opposition, it seemed to be coming from a small minority comprised mainly of those living next to the school. The population of the school is about 600 students, and about 40 parents were present.
“You are always going to have people who are unhappy,” he said. “Unfortunately, when it comes to the safety of school children, we live in a world where we have to take precautions. It is very difficult to keep everyone happy.”
Godlewski attributed the low attendance to the Board’s lack of communication with the community about the installation of the fences. She had not heard of the plan until Board member Petra Butler knocked on her neighbor’s door and told her husband, who then told her. She also said a petition with 130 signatures was supposed to be presented at the meeting but never was.
“We were just verbally trying to say, ‘Hey, you need a little bit more of a comment period, a little more of a research period,’ and they were saying, ‘No. End of story. Fence is going in,'” she said. “But there could be better ideas that aren’t so archaic as a fence that are actually more productive for our kids’ safety.”
Some of those ideas include more monitors who can spot predators during recess, she said. Many parents were concerned that the fence would inhibit the ability for kids to evacuate during an emergency situation.
Caplan said school officials are listening, but after all is said and done, it is the Board that will make the final call.
“When best practice from security experts and crime experts, from all police sheriffs and firemen is to install the fence to create that perimeter, the Board would be negligent if we ignored that and listened to a handful of people who didn’t want it to be there,” he said.
Additional safety meetings are scheduled to take place on Oct. 24 at Trailside Elementary School, Oct. 25 at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School and Oct. 30 at McPolin Elementary School, all from 5-6 p.m.