Commentary: Adams Elementary fence belongs on perimeter

On Feb. 13, I attended the meeting held at Estancia High School regarding the layout of fencing to be installed at Adams Elementary School.

First, I want to commend Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Fred Navarro for how well he led this sometimes-emotional meeting. The fact that there is going to be a fence installed is a done deal. All proposed layouts are basically the same across the front of the campus and will require visitors during school hours to check in through the front office before being able to come onto school property.

What is under debate is the configuration of the rest of the fencing.

Members of the Adams community, including parents, faculty and staff, unanimously prefer a layout that would follow the property line of the school. (Adams Principal Gabe Del Real has not taken a position on this and defers to the school board.) A fence along the property line achieves the goal of a safe and secure campus to the extent that any fence can.

Seems simple, right?

Apparently not.

The neighbors at the meeting said they do not want the fence to run along the property line between the park and the campus. They want it to run along the blacktop of the school, dividing the blacktop from the playing field, thereby cutting the Adams campus in two.

They feel that a fence along the property line, which is about 70 feet back from the sidewalk and behind the park, is not aesthetically pleasing.

Five days a week there are 400-plus students on the playground, moving between the blacktop and the field before school and during three recesses and three staggered lunch periods. If a fence is placed along the blacktop, the students and all adult supervisors would have to go through gates to move between their blacktop and their grassy area. All so that an after-hours neighbor visiting the campus wouldn't have to go through one unlocked gate?

Does that make sense?

Neighbors described a fence as feeling "restrictive" and conveying a feeling of "isolation," and they don't want that in their neighborhood. They prefer that the students and staff of the school be the ones to experience whatever "restriction" and "isolation" a fence through the middle of their campus may create. That's all right with them.

In addition, a point of major significance is that a fence that edges the blacktop, as opposed to following the property line, would still leave the whole playing field of the school absolutely open, all day every day, to whomever is at the park or wants to enter the campus from that direction. What good is a fence at the front office if the whole side of the campus is open to a public street and park?

Another troubling problem with a fence that would divide the campus is that should there ever be a disaster or emergency, evacuation routes to the field would have to funnel hundreds of children through a few gates. Imagine a scenario where young children's optimum safety during a disaster has been compromised in favor of a neighbor who wants to let his dog run the field in the evening but doesn't like the feeling of having to pass through a gate. If the use of a gate on an evening stroll is too "restrictive," try getting more than 400 children through a few gates during a fire.

To place the fence anyplace other than the school's property line is a totally illogical plan based on some neighbors' emotional preferences rather than what's best for the students and staff.

I hope that the school board and Navarro make the right decision and place the fence at Adams along the school's legal property line.

DEBORAH LUCAS is the school librarian at Adams Elementary School in Costa Mesa.

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