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Fencing Meeting Notes

Community Meeting Notes

Otis Elementary School School Site Perimeter Fencing and Gates


22 May 2017 • Media Center


Monday, Otis held a meeting about the school site perimeter fencing and gates, as well as additional security measures to be funded by Measure I, the bond passed in 2014. The meeting was attended by more than 35 parents, teachers, students, neighbors, and representatives of the school district.  


Principal Harris expressed the question many families have asked: How will the fences impact our ability to enjoy the school’s playground and park? It is her understanding that the plans in place are meant to keep students safe during school hours, while allowing for the continued flow between park and school grounds during weekend and evening hours.


Shariq Khan, AUSD’s Chief Business Officer, outlined standards adopted by the Alameda Board of Education in the Fall of 2015. Khan explained that the plans for Otis and other schools are meant to ensure that during school hours, there should be one single point of entry—with all visitors funneled through one entrance, ideally through or past the office. After school hours, the school grounds become public property, along with the park.   


Some attendees questioned the process for arriving at the current plans. It was explained that the process for making these decisions has been a long one over several years and has included input from the Otis community over the course of that time. There was recognition that views may have changed since the process began. The project’s coordinators who were at the meeting cannot change the standards now in place; changes must be requested of the AUSD Board. 


A student expressed his concern that more fences could make students feel locked in during school in a negative way.  


The project’s architect presented three scheme options for creating a “secure perimeter” at Otis. These proposed plans include some ornamental fencing and some chain-link fencing, as well as areas where the buildings themselves provide the “secure perimeter” (assuming exterior doors are locked).


Ms. McKenna, an Otis teacher who is often on campus on weekends, suggested that a chainlink fence does not in fact make for a secure perimeter, as she sees intruders climb into fenced areas often. The architect clarified that the planned fences are meant to act as deterrents, and are not non-scaleable fences. Ms. McKenna discussed ways in which a more secure perimeter will benefit teachers supervising students on campus.    


The architect and others on the planning team mentioned that cameras are an item within the safety and security standards recommendations. There is an allotment for several cameras at Otis, but so far, a need has not been identified to have cameras at this location; cameras are therefore not in the plan for Otis at this time. Sensor-tripped lighting is being considered. 


A discussion followed about emergency egress out of the campus grounds and into the park, i.e. during a fire or earthquake. The planning team took the points made into consideration. 


The planning team recapped conversations they’ve had with other agencies about possibly expanding the school’s blacktop further into Krusi Park. High costs to expand the blacktop were cited as prohibitive.  


The question was asked about whether savings on the fences could mean funding moves to other projects, like bathrooms in the new building. The planning team said such questions should be posed to the Board. 


The planning team suggested attendees try and choose one of the three scheme options to move forward with and revise from here—with specific details to be decided at a later time. However, attendees were still not enthusiastic about any of the three alternatives. Some suggested another way to add fences in the name of providing a secure perimeter that differs from any of the three option schemes presented. If the new alternatives are to be considered, the planning team wishes to involve the fire department and to get feedback from more of the faculty. 


Sarah Olaes, an Otis parent and Enrichment Director for the Alameda Education Foundation, has been involved in Measure I since its campaign. Sarah expressed urgency for the Otis community to come to some conclusions soon, because Measure I funds are being spent rapidly throughout the district. Planning team members suggested a timeline of September for starting construction, in which case decisions have to be made by the end of this school year.  


For more information, visit the AUSD Web site and look for the Measure I link on the Home Page.  


Notes taken by Otis parent Kristan LaVietes