Guest editorial: Park City School District should rethink controversial plan for fencing
October 31, 2017
In the last 20 years of my life I've learned how to grow businesses. The key to successful growth in my experience is about solving material problems.
Not just problems.
Recently, I attended a meeting at Trailside elementary school to discuss the fencing proposal with the PCSD. There were many recommendations that the group agreed with and only one contentious issue: the construction of a 6' chain-link fence around the school. Mr. Caplan articulated the goal of the fence was to "improve the health and safety" of our kids. I think it's a fantastic goal but I'd argue the approach is wrong.
If we want to improve the "problem" of health and safety of our kids we need to attack problems that will have material results. Not just problems.
When asked what issues the fence would solve I heard three answers:
1) Elk. Elk have travelled onto school grounds in the past and potentially endangered the kids. The PCSD noted that a wildlife expert recommended a double 8' fence to keep elk out. The PCSD is not recommending we listen to this expert. I live in Trailside and know that you can't get within 100 feet of the elk. I do worry, however, what might happen if elk somehow became caged with our kids.
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2) Dogs. A dog has travelled onto the school property and potentially endangered the kids. Again, this fence is not sealed and I worry about caging animals with our kids.
3) Defectors. Kids have left school grounds without permission. This is a very isolated incident that has never lead to any lost children. But can't we solve this with another playground monitor? We could hire a lot of monitors for a couple hours a day for $350,000 — and a $22M spending surplus beyond that. Kids can climb chain link fencing btw.
It doesn't seem like these are big issues that will materially help improve the health and safety of our kids. In fact, a perimeter fence may do the opposite. A fence may force kids to walk further to get to school — around the fenced perimeter. And fight the hundreds of cars picking up/dropping off kids during the same small window. This is terrifying to me.
The board approached this problem by asking security experts for security improvements. That's what they got. I'm not sure what the best use of these funds are but I think the community feedback on this suggests that it deserves further consideration and creative problem solving. Maybe it's a bigger focus on mental health? Youth suicide rates in Utah have tripled in recent years and are now the leading cause of death among Utah youth ages 10-17. Let's reverse the big, trending issues. Not create solutions for problems that don't exist — or that might even create bigger problems.