Adams Elementary School

The district plans to build wrought iron fencing/gates (shown with red lines) in front of Adams Elementary school and along the side of the property. The playground will likely be completely enclosed and the field would remain unfenced in order to be available for community use after school hours. (Courtesy Laura Boss / November 13, 2013)

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Parents faced off this week over whether to put fencing up at three elementary schools.

Some spoke before the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board of trustees Tuesday in support of putting up fencing at Adams, Victoria and Roy O. Anderson elementary schools, while others said doing sowould make the open neighborhood elementary schools seem institutional.

"The district has long prided itself on the outdoor park-like environment of school campuses," a district staff report said. "Over the years, however, most of the elementary schools have had fencing added to address safety and other concerns."

The majority of parents opposing the fencing live in the neighborhood near Anderson.

"It would give the school an institutionalized feeling," resident David Bolt said. "I don't think we have a lot of people passing by and going through the school yard where parents would be concerned."

After hearing overwhelming dissent for fencing at Newport Beach's Anderson, the board voted 6 to 1 to postpone its decision, with Trustee Katrina Foley dissenting. However, trustees did approve fencing at Adams and Victoria, both of which are in Costa Mesa.

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Sandy Hook Starts Conversation

The district began talking about school security after the Sandy Hook school shooting in December. Adams, Victoria and Anderson are the only three of the district's 22 elementary schools that do not have fencing around the instructional areas, said district spokeswoman Laura Boss.

The district circulated a survey to the three school communities and surrounding neighbors in October to gauge preferences on fencing options for each campus.

More than 600 people took the survey with the lion's share — 374 — coming from the Anderson community. Results show that 174 people took the survey regarding the fencing at Adams and 114 responded from the Victoria area.

Of the Anderson community respondents, 62% opposed building any type of fencing on the campus.

The majority of the Adams and Victoria communities voted in support of additional fencing.

Foley advocated for taking additional time to discuss fencing at both Adams and Anderson because of their open, park-like feel. However, her colleagues did not agree.

"We don't want our quaint neighborhood schools to feel like institutions," she said. "The least amount of fencing is what I support, but of course, we all want kids to be safe."

The security situation is different at Victoria because it is on a street with speeding cars and a higher volume of foot traffic, she said.

A report district staff circulated before the meeting recommended that trustees approve the fencing plans at each of the elementary schools. However, after the majority of parents and neighbors at the meeting said they were vehemently opposed to fencing around Anderson, trustees decided to study the situation further before making decisions.

District officials will work with the Newport Beach Police Department, Anderson school administration, staff, parents and community members as part of the analysis process, Boss said.

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Wrought iron vs. chain-link