A heated debate that’s been deliberated on for over a year is expected to continue Tuesday when the Newhall School District meets for its regularly scheduled board meeting.
An 8-foot high fence that’s currently under construction at Valencia Valley Elementary School has been at the center of a debate between the residents who live near the school and the school board in charge of keeping students and staff safe.
“The fence is going up,” board member Philip Ellis Jr. said, “but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few people come and complain.”
There are 10 schools in the Newhall School District, and only three of those schools have an 8-foot fence on their campus, Jennifer Hughes wrote in an email to The Signal. Valencia Valley, despite its very safe surroundings and secure history, is one of those schools.
“Our community does not warrant an 8-foot fence,” wrote Hughes, who has actively participated in many board meetings speaking against the need for a fence.
Though, property owners in the area believe their community’s school doesn’t warrant a fence that high, Ellis said, “We were urged to build the fence by the teachers and staff of the school who realized there were new issues coming about that hadn’t been a problem before.”
Security has been a hot-button issue on many school district board meeting agendas as violent acts occur at schools around the nation. Loose dogs and a recent uptick in transients are but a few of the problems that Ellis listed off. He said the sheriff mentioned a heroin-usage hotspot not too far from where the school is.
“The fence is one part of an overall security issue,” Ellis said. Once the fence is built, the district will have created a sole entry point at the school’s front office where it can control who enters the school.
“We’re looking at a number of different things to help with control,” Ellis said. “There’s a number of systems out there, and we’re looking at all the variables to try and decide which model is the best and most economical for the school to adopt.”
One potential solution could be a security system that the Hart district recently discussed at a meeting of the governing board last week.
“We’ve taken everybody’s comments into consideration and tried to come up with the safest solution for the school,” Ellis said, while also taking the community’s wishes into consideration.
There were several district meetings where parents came to speak on the issue and share their grievances.
A homeowners association said they’d prefer a rod-iron fence opposed to a chain-link fence, “and we agreed wholeheartedly,” he said. The district tried to match the fencing around Paseo pools as well, but the color required more maintenance so they opted to adopt a standard rod-iron fence.
“We begged the board for the consideration of a 6–foot fence,” Hughes shared, “but they never gave an answer as to why they wanted the 8-foot fence over a 6-foot one.”
Hughes said she has gone door to door talking to neighbors and found an overwhelming majority of the neighborhood didn’t want the fence.
“Our feelings were overlooked,” Hughes expressed. She said the board could’ve better cooperated with residents to determine a better height and placement for the fence.
“There may be push back by parents (who have spoken out at several meetings),” Ellis said. “But the board ultimately decided to push forward with the project because of the multiple parents and teachers who voiced their feelings about a lack of school security in the area.”