Amidst Safety Concerns, Parents Push to Fully Fence North Bend Elementary Playground, District Agrees

Last Friday, the Snoqualmie Valley School District took a proactive stance regarding a large unfenced elementary school play field, a playground area that’s been at issue since December when a couple of parents started a campaign to fully enclose their children’s recess area.

For Wendy Sjostrom the crusade began before Winter Break, when her daughter came home from North Bend Elementary School (NBE) and told her she was scared at recess because the strangers were back.

Wendy called school and was told that the public uses the playground as a passage way to downtown North Bend, as the playground fence has an open pass-through to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail which also accesses neighborhoods opposite the trail and school.

Another issue is that part of the playground (where a play field is located) is unfenced and exposed to a city street. Parents report that sometimes the public uses this field area during recess hours, something they say is a student safety concern.

In April,  first steps were taken when a gate was installed in the playground fence that before opened to the trail, which locks during school hours. Additionally, a fence opening from parking lot to the playground was closed off.  Wendy says this has stopped the issue of strangers in the play equipment area during recess.

A large portion of the playground still remains unfenced, though. At first Wendy and and fellow parent activist, Chris Knight, were told that fencing this play field portion was not possible because it was North Bend city property.  They later found out the land does belong to the school district, but contains a easement with the city.

Large grass playground field stretching from North Bend Elementary to Two Rivers High School along 3rd Street in downtown North Bend.

Large grass playground field stretching from North Bend Elementary to Two Rivers High School along 3rd Street in downtown North Bend.

 

Working with Wendy on the fencing project, the district estimated it will cost about $12,000 to fully enclose the playground; money it wasn’t sure it had in this year’s budget. As a solution, they suggested parents raise the fencing funds or possibly look to the PTA.  The PTA, though, has limited funds and those are dedicated to supplementing school programming.

Chris Knight views the NBE fencing as an inequitable situation, saying the school’s playground fencing isn’t up to the same safety standards of the other four district elementary schools.  Additionally, she points out that no other elementary school playground is as exposed as North Bend Elementary, which sits in the front of the school.

Add to this the current public safety issues occurring in North Bend, including increased drug use at neighboring Torguson Park (where used hypodermic needles are being found) as well as past issues at nearby North Bend Library, and Chris felt the district should fund and install the fence as soon as possible.

North Bend Elementary Principal, Jim Frazier, said via email that the fence is a good idea, but that his school is not in a student safety crisis situation.  He explained that the fence will keep students in the play area, but won’t keep others from using the playground for inappropriate activities when school is not in session.

Currently, NBE staff inspect and “sweep” the playground each morning to ensure it is safe for students.  Past items occasionally removed related to those “inappropriate activities” include broken glass, condoms and sporadically in past years, hypodermic needles.

Last week a petition began circulating the community to see if other parents agree on the urgent need for the fencing. Garnering over 160 signatures, the petition asked the district to allocate funds to fully fence the NBE playground, stating the [playground] “arrangement is unsafe and inadequate.”

Even if not a “crisis situation,” district officials agreed with parents and as a proactive measure will be fully enclosing the entire playground before the start of the 2013-14.  In a school newsletter on Friday, May 31, 2013, it was announced that the school district will add funds for the fencing project to next year’s budget.

According to the newsletter, “Barring any unforeseen setbacks, we expect the fence to be installed as close as possible to the start of school this fall.”

Comments

  1. Just a question.. if there are not enough funds to “fully fence” .. then why isn’t a partial fencing in of an adequate size play area an option? Living within the means of the budget seems to be a way to display proper stewardship of public funds and teach our kids the value of budgeting. There are obviously more pressing issues within the school district other than a huge and oversized play area that also needs to spend budget monies on watering, mowing and other maintenance issues. Has there been a determination that ALL the property must be used for recess? And why would there be some sort of ultimatum on the use of the property in non school hours. Isn’t this public property as well? Paid for by taxpayers? One issue, it seems to me, is such waste of a great resource when schools are closed. I havn’t had school aged children for very many years. . however I continue to pay taxes like residents do and wonder if programs can be offered that utilize the property, with activities that provide extra monies to a budget for many things. Just wondering? Thanks

    • We couldn’t agree more. Fencing in the entire field will cost at least $10,000 of the $12,000 they’re proposing, and will solve absolutely nothing at ALL. Fencing in the playground makes much more sense, and we’re all in favor of that…just not the entire park space. That’s ridiculous.

  2. It’s good to see the school district administration finally moving on this important issue. Student & teacher safety in our district schools, which has been a priority concern of mine for years, has not received the resources needed so problems persist at an unacceptable level, primarily related to bullying, harassment, assaults, and rapes within our schools, but here’s another example of threats posed to students & teachers from those outside of a school. Thanks to Wendy, her helpers and those who’ve signed her petition demanding action (which I also urged the school board directors and superintendent to address during their regular meeting on May 23), the district is coming to the right course of action. There are already funds in our capital facilities budget that can be spent on this solution…just prior resistance impeded the district from doing so up to now. I’m looking forward to the district now following through on fixing this elementary school fence, by school opening this fall, which will help protect our kids against public threats from the “outside” and kids leaving the school grounds when they’re not supposed to (as I’ve heard from my son, who attended NBE).
    –Stephen Kangas

  3. Calye Lacefield says

    I live on 3rd street directly across from the park area. I think fencing the entire park will be a giant eyesore. The NBE kids don’t use the grassy part of the park during school hours. Sometimes Two Rivers kids use part of the park near the school. They are always attended by a teacher. The only people I ever see walking in/around the park are people with dogs on the weekend/after school, kids, or people walking to the neighborhood behind the school. During the afternoons, there is seasonal soccer practice and occasional baseball diamond use. How about finishing the fence around the immediate playground area where elementary kids actually play and not the entirety of 3rd street?

    • SortingHat says

      But that’s too logical with public money! We gotta spend to make it look like were doing something or the touchy feel liberals will balk and literally hang us! 🙂

  4. Over-protective parents and fear of “darkies, dirty homeless and others not like me” is just about the stupidest reason one could imagine for such a reaction. Fence in the playground, sure, but the entire park?? Wendy, Stephen, what exactly are you smoking there? For starters, we live directly across from this park, four doors down from the school. I work at home and watch the playground out my office window every day; the staff keeps an eye on those kids like hawks, and someone wanting to get near them wouldn’t stand a chance. How many times have you come over here and watched your kids at play or, better yet, volunteered at the school to help out? Do you honestly think that wasting all this money on fencing will prevent anyone from jumping said fence, and going about their business anyway? Do you honestly think that wasting all this money and ruining the park for everyone around will prevent a single person from shooting up on the swings, or leaving broken glass around, just like they always have? How about, instead of demanding all this wasteful spending, you simply spend some time AT the school, with your kids, and watch what happens there, like we do. You’ll quickly learn that your fears are completely unfounded, that we live in a safe and secure neighborhood, and that fencing in this entire open space so that your kids will be “safe” for the next year or two they’re at NBE will then ruin the entire neighborhood for everyone long after you’re gone?

    Sheesh. I thought we were smarter than this out here. Your outburst to the city council at the safety meeting was pretty outlandish and off-topic, just as your misguided attempt at keepigng your kids “safe’ when NO THREAT EXISTS. We are actively attempting to block this fence, and will stop at nothing to see that our neighborhood isn’t ruined thanks to your fearmongering and ignorance of the facts.

    • Travis Sjostrom says

      Hi Phil and other Fence Opposers,
      Here’s the facts:
      There were two options proposed to fence the playground in partial amounts prior to the school district stating that the only acceptable fence would be one that fences in the entire playground.
      The “playground” is entirely school property, not a public park. It is managed and maintained by the school. Yes, it’s paid for by public dollars, but so are the class rooms – so should you have the right to walk into their class rooms while the children are in class too? A school should be a safe place for nurturing our children’s development inside and outside of the class room. There is no stereotyping here, any unauthorized individuals and animals on school property during school hours is a safety risk. This is posted on our school district’s web site, but for some reason this standard has not been applied to NBES.

  5. Spencer Nelson says

    How could you possibly argue against anything that would keep our kids safer? Eye sore?? Come on. I hope you’re not serious. It’s been confirmed by multiple sources that condoms, broken glass, beer bottles, hyperdermic needles, cigarette butts and who knows what else has been found ON SCHOOL PROPERTY! Eye sore?? Boo-frickin-hoo.
    And yes, Phil, a fence WILL detour people from: “shooting up on the swings, or leaving broken glass around, just like they always have” (at least you admit there is a problem), thats the whole point.
    Both my wife and I spend time at the school, on a weekly basis, and you know what, we’re still, even more, concerned about our children’s safety.
    Spend the money, fence the school, like the other elementary’s, and let’s move on. This is not “fear mongering”, this is reality. NB is not Mayberry anymore. We need to deal with that reality and adjust appropriately. Our children cant protect themselves and their safety is way more important than the costs of protecting them.

  6. SortingHat says

    Guess they have never seen what most Ohio neighborhoods are like regarding school fencing or lack of. Look at most Cleveland neighborhoods even in the nice ones south and east of the downtown proper with lots of green lawns that you can’t tell between the neighbor’s yard and school’s yard.

    On that matter there is a huge LACK of fences between yards both public and private grounds

Speak Your Mind

*

%d bloggers like this: