Mailbag: Do not fence in Andersen Elementary

Officials are considering building a fence around Andersen Elementary School in the Port Streets neighborhood of Newport Beach.

From what I can tell, the neighborhood is not interested in having a 6-foot, wrought-iron fence around the school. The school is situated in a lovely greenbelt, and a fence would make the greenbelt look more like a prison. I have heard that a good number of people have signed a petition against the fence.

Recently, Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Fred Navarro spoke at Andersen to the area neighbors. It seemed to me that Navarro had already concluded that a fence was necessary and that the only questions remaining were what type of fence and how restrictive.

The neighbors in attendance seemed mostly to disagree with him, arguing that Andersen is in a low-crime area and the fence would be an eyesore unsuitable for preventing any significant crime and restrictive to after-school use.

Most stated that they didn't want the fence and noted that they believe the safety risks were greatly overstated by people who don't live in our neighborhood, haven't studied the statistics or may represent parties that would benefit from the fence construction.

The principal could only cite dogs on the campus and parents delivering items to their children without first checking in at the office. These are not safety concerns, for the most part. She also said that it was her preference to fence off not only the school yard, but the entire adjacent soccer field. This would cause large problems for weekend and after-school hours access, add to the cost and be an even larger eyesore.

In an environment in which schools lack items for education and teachers are being laid off, this fence seems an unnecessary expense. Other safety features, such as a new office entrance to the school and video camera surveillance, might be more acceptable to all.

This seems to be a case of trying to fix a problem that may not be of significance while ignoring an abundance of problems that are more immediate.

Dave Larue

Newport Beach

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Finding the right reasons for a fence

Re. "Commentary: Adams Elementary fence belongs on perimeter," (Feb. 21) by Deborah Lucas: I am an architect and Costa Mesa resident of 23 years. I live down the street from Adams Elementary School, a wonderful fabric of our neighborhood.

The school is a combined elementary school and local park to our neighborhood. The Samar Drive border is fairly well delineated between the "public" zone and the "school" zone, with a long, relatively narrow streetscape park, pine tree groves at the northern and southern ends, walking paths and a tot lot bisecting the two. This would seem clear even to a new visitor.

The openness of the school's turf area to the park is amazing. In fact it is a steadfast representation of shared community and safety. It is not just a concept. It is a reality to be protected.

Why mention all of this? Because history and sense of place matter.

As for the technical aspects that Lucas writes of, they are easily manageable, and by no means, from a design point, is there a safety problem. Lucas speaks of gates as some impassable portal when she refers to the students but indicates the same gates for residents would be a welcome entrance to the park after-hours and on weekends.

In fact, the gates could be easily 20-, 30- or 40-feet wide from the blacktop to the turf area. Not impeding whatsoever, thoroughly beyond the code width requirements and virtually, when open, not perceived as gates by those passing through — whether for day-to-day access or emergency egress.

From a code and safety standpoint during a fire escape, the blacktop area alone equates to a safe zone without exiting as far as the turf field.

Is the turf field safer than safe refuge in the blacktop area? Yes. But I am trying to blunt the hyperbole.

Keep the school, the fields, the park and the community free. For all the right reasons.

Tom Moore

Costa Mesa

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