Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 26, 2015

Fence siting

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

Surprising absolutely nobody came the news that the School Board voted on Tuesday night to retain two high schools as opposed to any sort of consolidation plan.   What is more interesting is apparently there will be a priority to start erecting fences around the fenceless elementary schools around Alameda.

After some recent police action at both Bay Farm (vandalism) and Edison (stranger danger) the safety at schools has become an issue, again.

While I can understand the visceral desire to fence in a school thinking that will make a school “safe,” I will say that if I were dictator of my children’s school one of the first things I would do would be to remove the fence that was erected after the unfortunate incident at Ruby Bridges.

The idea that a fence really makes the school any more secure is assuming that whoever the “bad guy” is out there will respect the existence of a fence.  While it feels good to have a tangible and visible monument to “safety” in the form of chain link, as long as there are gaps in protocols (leaving gates open, people allowing people to access the school at supposedly “secure” points) the fence really does nothing to make the school any more safe.

What the fence does it create a barrier to the community around the school and make it less useful.  Recall it took me numerous emails to different people in the City, School District, and school site to get the gates opened for after hours and weekend usage as was promised when the fences went up in the first place.

I hope that each school site has an extensive conversation about the desire for fencing and really discuss the pros and cons of “securing” their schools through a perimeter fence.  Don’t allow an overreaction to unfortunate incidents guide a decision that will have long lasting impacts on the school and the community around the school.


  1. Statistically, the bad guys are already on the inside: most harm comes to children from people they know and trust. Fences are ugly.

    Comment by tanya — February 26, 2015 @ 7:40 am

  2. If anything, the fences make it harder to run away from the “active shooter” scenario everyone is so afraid of. One person will still be able to come on campus if they want. More “security theater.”

    Comment by BMac — February 26, 2015 @ 8:37 am

  3. What they said^^^

    During the bond discussions, I raised my concerns about the language in the Bond related to a fence in every neighborhood as was told that there would community discussion for each site before determining which sites/neighborhoods have a fence forced on them. Hopefully the expedited fence erecting will ensure it follows a public and open process that involves the neighborhoods that surround the schools.

    Comment by jkw — February 26, 2015 @ 8:46 am

  4. the only fence that can keep people out is at old Alameda high.

    Comment by John P. — February 26, 2015 @ 1:29 pm

  5. I like a fence around a school. The schools I worked at all had fences. Children (and adults) do better with set boundaries. There are often children who are not safe without a fence (such as some of the autistic children). Would you want a child to run into the street after a ball? Houses have walls and doors, yards have fences. No big deal.

    Comment by Elaine — February 26, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

  6. I can’t think of a house in Alameda that has a six-foot, chain-link fence. Too strict boundaries often give a sense of false safety. Especially since most danger to children comes from people they know, people who are inside the fences.

    Comment by tanya — February 27, 2015 @ 6:30 am

  7. #3 — Yes! There will be community engagement meetings at every school site during the design phase of the bond projects, so each school site community will have an opportunity to provide ideas/feedback to the architects.

    I’d also like to note that concerns about security are not just in reaction to the incident at Edison earlier this week. During the 60+ (!) community meetings for the Facilities Master Plan last spring, “safety and security” was among the top priorities at all of the school sites. Not all of the school sites wanted new (or bigger) fences, but all wanted some kinds of improvements. You can see what was tagged as the greatest priorities on the individual school site pages on the Facilities Master Plan landing page here:

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD community affairs) — February 27, 2015 @ 8:23 am

  8. There are certain functional advantages to chain link fences like the one at Franklin Elementary School, where I volunteered for three years. The biggest single advantage was how well the fences kept balls from exiting the school yard more often than they did, which was more than frequent enough. (I had to go after them, sometimes on the roof.)

    But fences keep good people and activities *out* as well as in, which is Tanya’s point as well as Lauren’s. I attended an “open campus” high school–Sequoia High School in Redwood City–that worked well, just as Alameda and Encinal High do here. Can we try to open our K-8 campuses up more to the community?

    If we had more parents and community volunteers on our school campuses–and you do not have to be a parent to volunteer, Lord knows–we might have even better “security” than the kind offered by chain-link steel. I’d like to see us try that approach.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — February 28, 2015 @ 9:31 pm

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