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Ensuring equal opportunities in curriculum and programming for all students

Providing our students and faculty with safe, healthy, technology-driven learning environments

Committing to our neighborhood schools

Guaranteeing responsible stewardship of public funds

Celebrating the diversity within our district

Engaging parents to become active participants in the schools

Making data-driven decisions with measurable results

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Thoughts and Observations on Fencing (, not the Olympic Sport)

Here's what I've learned about fencing for our elementary schools over the past couple of weeks.....

First, a little background information.  In an effort to upgrade the security at all of our schools throughout the district, numerous in-house upgrades are being considered for all schools.  These include electronic door access, intruder locksets, intercoms, camera surveillance, window blinds, systems integration, fire alarm upgrades, visitor management system, district wide digital radio upgrade, bus-rider tracker system and, yes, chain link fencing at elementary school playgrounds. 

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the June 20th Van Allen fencing meeting due to a scheduling conflict, but Kristi Saunders has done a great job keeping me informed.  Thanks for your efforts, Kristi. I really appreciate it, since we have similar concerns about fencing.

June 25-27, I attended the Shimek, Weber and Longfellow fence presentations. 

My children attend Shimek, so I initially attended that meeting as a parent.  Here are my notes from the Tuesday, June 25 meeting:

  • One parent did a good job or reminding the room that in the interest of equity, a fence plan should be considered at all schools. Not all schools being carbon copies, though, there has to be consideration for each facility's unique geography and location. 
  • The forum is to solicit input from parents and neighbors
  • The other safety and security upgrades, while a bit overwhelming upfront, seem to make a lot of sense. Tragedies will never happen in MY school....until they do. And then people will say, "well, why didn't the district try to do x,y,or z?"  Liberty and Security need a happy medium, though as another parent pointed out.
  • Emotions ran high at times and Duane VanHemert did a great job of rolling with the punches, so to speak, and maintaining a calm demeanor.  I found out Duane was a Navy corpsman on a hospital ship off the coast of Vietnam, so he's obviously handled a much more stressful environment.  He was friendly, empathetic and engaging throughout the night.
  • As for the fence, well, between ALICE training post-Sandy Hook and the fact that a fence seems to go against what Bohumeil Shimek as a conservationist and botanist, would have likely supported, I'm still not convinced in the case of Shimek Elementary, but I AM more open to the idea now that I've seen the proposed fence line, which encompasses much of the grounds and still allows for the prairie field campus to be maintained.  Cost is obviously a concern as well.
  • Thanks to board member Sarah Swisher for attending.
  • Thought for the day: If the goal is to "define the space" at a campus surrounded by woods, isn't it already pretty well defined? 

Wednesday June 26 meeting at Weber. (I attended just to observe):

  • *Eerily similar to the Shimek discussion.  VERY different geography and location from Shimek, but strong anti-fence sentiment in the room.

  • Good sized crowd. Thanks to all who attended, especially Weber parent and public servant Officer Mike Smithey who shared his candid thoughts on security in our schools.  Your very valuable, constructive input was greatly appreciated.  Real security vs perceived security are indeed two very different things. 
  • Fencing is not a "done deal" by any means and community input is still very important at EACH school.  This is refreshing to hear. 

Thursday, June 27 at Longfellow (again, just to observe):

  • Again thanks to all Longfellow neighbors and parents who were present
  • Duane again handled the pressure well and overall, I feel that the people went home satisfied that their voices had been heard.
  • It looks as if the gathered opinions and information from all meetings will be taken back to the board for reconsideration
  • Thanks to board member Sarah Swisher for attending and adding valuable input. 

Final thoughts: 
  • At each successive meeting, it became more and more apparent that the community input was both valuable and greatly appreciated.  I'm more convinced now that perhaps a fence either will not happen at each school or perhaps the proposals will be tailored to meet each individual facility's specific needs.
  • Although Van Allen, Shimek, Longfellow and Weber are all vastly different in their age, location and geography, the parents and neighbors all share legitimate concerns about fencing.  No one believes that security couldn't be upgraded at our schools, but certainly a chain link fence may not actually increase the security.  Perhaps imagined security might be more dangerous than no security???


  1. Really great post, thanks for sharing! I need a chain link fence in Vancouver now that we just got a dog. I just don't want other dogs coming into our yard or ours getting out and bugging other people.

  2. That is a good post. I have done some fencing in Waterloo and if you look around enough the school could actually save quite a bit of money. As for having it I actually grew up in a school that had a fence around it and I though it was a great idea.

  3. The post was truly very much informative,solar fencing would like to appreciate your effort for giving such good post.