After months of deliberations and discussions, the Newhall School District Governing Board voted to move forward with a perimeter fencing plan for Valencia Valley Elementary School at its meeting Tuesday night.
The final plan included adjustments to the fence’s shape and design, and was the result of a collaborative effort between the elementary school’s staff and parents and the neighborhood’s Homeowners Association.
“We had a robust discussion… This has been a long-time discussion and this is an important thing to the culture of the community,” Governing Board Clerk Brian Walters said at Tuesday’s meeting. “The idea was to make this [fence] the most useful for everyone involved.”
The fencing plan proposed to board included surrounding the school’s 1,200 linear feet of property with 8 feet tall decorative iron fences that included seven gates, one custom-built drive gate and 1,188 linear feet of concrete mow curb.
In its final motion, the Governing Board decided to make adjustments to this proposal by moving the fence line further away from the community’s paseo to allow for a small green belt and to accommodate pedestrian traffic along the back of the school.
They also voted to add a new gate near the paseo, to remove and move the gate’s backstop, to revamp the school’s sprinkler system to increase the longevity of the fence and to add garbage cans by the fence’s gates.
The adjustments and additions to the fence’s plan was a direct result of comments from community members during the board meeting who voiced concerns about the fence’s green belt, the community’s access to the field and the lack of trash cans.
“If the board is adamant about putting the fence up, and if we as homeowners don’t have a say or a choice to sway you, my request is that you leave some type of green belt along the paseo,” homeowner and parent Brad Goldman said.
Other homeowners expressed concerns that the community would not have access to all of the school’s grassy field to participate in community sports like soccer and volleyball.
“I’m very sad that we can’t move the fence and leave the grass outside because the kids are not going to have enough room there for certain PE activities that they do… and it cuts off the grass from all the activities that have been going on there for the last 30 years,” said homeowner and former Placerita Junior High School counselor Jody Liss-Monteleone, who has lived a block from the school since it opened and whose three children attended Valencia Valley.
The board also noted that the gates surrounding the school will remain unlocked during afterschool hours for the community to use. Governing Board members also discussed locking the gates around 10 p.m. when the elementary school’s maintenance staff are finishing their work.
“There will be afterhours access to individuals. There was always afterhours access for facility use groups… we felt strongly about doing that because there is that community use we wanted to preserve,” Walters said. “As long as there is no abuse of that, they will remain open.”
During the meeting, other parents and the Newhall Teachers Association voiced their support for the gate to keep Valencia Valley’s parents and students safe.
“It makes me as a parent uncomfortable knowing that there’s not that element of protection for when my kids are going to school there,” said parent Li Parr who just enrolled her oldest son in the school’s Transitional Kindergarten program.
Fellow parent and LAUSD teacher Kimberly Figueroa echoed these concerns and stated that all teachers at Valencia Valley deserve to feel safe on their school campus.
“I know the community is safe and has an excellent track record; however, times are changing and I urge people to take preventative measures especially since other schools have approved these measures,” she said.
Melanie Musella of the Newhall Teachers Association said a majority of the school’s teachers supported the fence addition to protect them and their students in case of an emergency.
“We need to act now to keep our campuses safe. We understand that the fence is not the cure, but adds another layer of security in addition to campus supervisors and the cameras already in place,” Musella said.
The fence is the first of several safety measures the Governing Board is instituting to keep its school campuses safe, according to Governing Board President Phil Ellis. These possible additions include more safety supervisors, an emergency phone system to reach parents and cameras.
“We are moving forward with a full-blown security program, each campus will be different… each campus will be unique,” Ellis said.
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