The Park City School District has proposed building a six foot high black chain link fence around the perimeter of Parleys Park Elementary and the other elementary schools in the district. The idea behind the fences, says one school official, is not to deter an intruder, but rather to prevent children from leaving the school premises or being kidnapped. (Christopher Reeves / Park Record)
(Photo by: Christopher Reeves / The Park Record)
The Park City School District could soon build a chain link fence around the perimeter of Parley’s Park Elementary School for security reasons, but many local residents don’t believe such a move is prudent or responsible.
On February 4th, Paulette Herman received a letter from Todd Hansen, Director of Buildings and Grounds for PCSD, about the possibility of building a six foot black chain link fence around Parley’s Park. The letter was also sent to other residents who live near the school, Herman said, who mailed a copy to The Park Record.
The letter began by stating that PCSD had been working with the Utah Homeland Security Department over the past few months to update the district security plan and that recommended changes, including a perimeter fence, were noted. Fences are also suggested for the other three elementary schools in PCSD, although Jeremy Ranch Elementary already has a fence around part of his building.
“One of the concerns we were made aware of was that our elementary schools were not fenced,” wrote Hansen. “This is highly recommended by the Homeland Security Team and is a security measure that the district believes is critical to protecting our students.”
A meeting was also held on February 27, at which residents received comments on their ideas for securing the school grounds. Gerimae Sih, a resident who lives near Parleys Park, said she and her husband spotted a surveyor near the school last week looking to see where the fence might be built.
Sih said at the meeting it was found that the fence was preventing children from leaving school without permission.
“If your reason for the fence is only to prevent children from leaving the school premises without permission, let me see the facts,” Sih said.
Todd Hauber, Business Administrator at PCSD, said the Homeland Security Department came to the school in January 2013 to do a sample assessment of the building to determine which vulnerabilities had not been addressed. One of these weaknesses has been the ease with which children can leave school premises or be kidnapped from school.
PCSD then organized a security committee that proposed a six-foot black chain-link fence. This committee has been looking into what types of fences are best, said Hauber.
Chris Hadley, who has a son at Parley’s Park, said he understands that 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 “shooter scenario” in mind and stressed that the reason for it was to prevent children from leaving and being kidnapped.
“Many studies show that these types of fences not only have a very negative impact on children’s educational experiences, but also have a negative impact on property values,” Hadley said, adding that a six-foot chain link fence would be very easy for one Child to climb.
Herman said she and her husband, who live next to the school, turn down the fence for a number of reasons, including cost (money would be better spent on a school officer, she said), aesthetics (a fence wouldn’t go with the Park City tradition be compatible) to maintain open spaces) and because she has never seen students leave the school boundaries during recess.
Hadley says the fence is a “hazard” as children want to climb over it. He added that the process for its construction was “very rushed”.
“It’s a problem-free solution. What are we willing to really give up in relation to our community?” Said Hadley.
Hauber said he would like to let the affected residents know that PCSD does not want to break through the fence project. It won’t be discussed at the April 22nd school council meeting, but he said it will most likely be discussed at the next May meeting, with a decision to come soon after.