News

Mountain View Whisman school board agrees to move forward with campus fences

School fields in Mountain View will soon be fenced off as part of a districtwide campus safety program. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Faced with surprise pushback from residents, the Mountain View Whisman School District will hit the brakes on its plans to surround all of its school fields with six-foot fences, vowing to solicit more feedback from the community.

But district officials affirmed at a school board meeting last week that the fences themselves are nonnegotiable and will move forward, regardless of what comes from these community meetings. The designs may be tweaked, but it's not up for debate whether they are built, school board members said.

"I think people need to be heard," said board member Devon Conley. "But with that in mind, this is about placement and design and how this is going to work, and not whether or not it will happen."

Since last year, the school district has planned to construct so-called perimeter controls around all of its schools, including six-foot chain-link fences around school facilities and adjacent field space. The goal was to improve campus safety and deter intruders, but the proposal has since exploded into a citywide controversy.

Residents across Mountain View, particularly those living around Monta Loma and Landels elementary schools, have blasted the district for the proposal. They argue it does little to improve campus safety while blocking off access to valuable fields that have been used as neighborhood parks for decades. Others felt it was a betrayal of trust, and were unaware funds from the district's $259 million Measure T bond would be used to build fences.

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The community is willing to compromise on the plans, but it has an "allergic reaction" to the kind of walls the district has proposed, district parent Tushar Moorti said at the Nov. 5 meeting. Some areas need fencing, he said, but enclosing all schools with chain-link barriers is not the welcoming environment that the community wants.

"We do not want to hear 'Yes, we are going to build a wall to keep people out' and 'We are going to make you pay for it, through Measure T funding,'" Moorti said.

Since October, the district has faced repeated criticism at meetings for not doing enough public outreach and for failing to understand the importance of public access to school fields. In the Monta Loma area, the school field is the only available green space within walking distance, making the proposal a hard pill to swallow.

District officials have vowed to keep gates that open onto the field unlocked outside of school hours, but the assurance has done little to take the edge off the opposition.

Unlike past meetings, where the proposal was universally panned, several school officials came out in support of the fences at the school board meeting and urged trustees to move forward. Bubb Principal Cyndee Nguyen -- speaking on behalf of more than a dozen teachers and staff at the school -- said she has to remind at least half a dozen people every day that they cannot walk on campus during school hours. In one incident, she said one of her students was walking to the restroom and was approached by a man who was not supposed to be on campus, triggering a call to law enforcement.

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"When parents drop off their children at school, myself included, we're expecting not only that our students will receive a high-quality education but they will also be physically safe," Nguyen said.

Board member Devon Conley, who is a teacher, said school staff should not be responsible for policing school grounds during the day and be forced to confront people to shoo them off campus during school hours. She recalled one incident in which she was screamed at by a man with a dog, which was off leash, in front of her young students.

"Every minute that someone is having to tell somebody to leave campus who should not be there is a minute spent not focusing on the social-emotional well-being of our children and not focused on instruction," Conley said.

To ease the tension and win over community support, the district will be hosting "work groups" composed of parents, school staff and community representatives to figure out a middle ground on the proposed fencing plan into December. These work groups will be limited to the Monta Loma and Landels communities, said Rebecca Westover, the district's chief business officer.

Board member Ellen Wheeler said the district was taking too narrow a focus, and that other neighborhoods have felt their concerns have been ignored. She said the Bubb Elementary School community wants to be involved in the district's plans, and deserves to have a work group even if district administrators feel it's unnecessary.

"To say this is something we don't have to do -- that's not the kind of thing that helps people move forward and feel good about the end solutions," Wheeler said. "It's true we don't need any feedback, we can just vote on this and go forward. Our community members would feel disenfranchised and angry."

Parent Karen Dillan said the reluctance to meet with Bubb residents is strange, and that the school district could use the feedback from residents in the area to make the project a better fit within the community.

"I really am puzzled by this pushback from Westover and everyone that you can't have a community meeting with us the way you can with Landels and Monta Loma," Dillan said. "It's truly bizarre."

Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said he was reluctant to keep expanding the scope of community meetings and feedback, in part because of time constraints and huge plans to reopen schools during a global pandemic. He said there is also a part of the community that will never accept the district's plans and want fields to remain open even during school hours.

"We do have an obligation to make sure our kids are safe, and we do have an obligation that teachers shouldn't have to worry about this -- especially with COVID-19," Rudolph said. "People are very transparent that they still want to be able to walk through campus during school hours, and they knowingly walk across campus during school hours."

Board member Tamara Wilson, joining her colleagues, said the plans should move forward and that it's not an option to entirely nix the plan. She said it's the board's responsibility to keep students and school staff safe, and the overwhelming preference among school staff is to have perimeter fences installed.

Board member Laura Blakely said she was okay with delaying the plans to solicit more feedback, but that she herself has come around to the idea of perimeter controls, particularly in the aftermath of school shootings in Sandy Hook, Conn., and more recently in Parkland, Fla. The Parkland shooting sparked local concerns that more should be done to avoid a deadly shooting at Mountain View schools, including the installation of school fences.

Rudolph has called the fences a practical approach to student safety in the event of a school shooter, and said that perimeter controls are already common in schools throughout the region. Opponents have been skeptical, however, and say six-foot fences are easily scalable and could even create dangerous chokepoints.

One parent pointed out that school security has ballooned into a $2.7 billion industry with little research to back up the effectiveness of the safety measures.

Board member Jose Gutierrez said he was amenable to adding more community meetings, but said expanding the scope outside of Landels and Monta Loma feels like it's "after the fact" that the projects are moving forward. He said it also opens up the possibility that district administrators will be bombarded or harassed by people who dislike the proposed fences without gaining much in the way of value.

There is a lot of frustration and anger, Gutierrez said, but the district can't grind to a halt for everyone who feels they weren't counted.

"As long as it's respectful on both sides I wouldn't mind having another meeting, but this is it. We can't just open it up to everyone who doesn't agree with the district," Gutierrez said.

One additional community meeting will be held for the Bubb community, Rudolph said, some time before Nov. 19.

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Mountain View Whisman school board agrees to move forward with campus fences

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Nov 11, 2020, 9:48 am

Faced with surprise pushback from residents, the Mountain View Whisman School District will hit the brakes on its plans to surround all of its school fields with six-foot fences, vowing to solicit more feedback from the community.

But district officials affirmed at a school board meeting last week that the fences themselves are nonnegotiable and will move forward, regardless of what comes from these community meetings. The designs may be tweaked, but it's not up for debate whether they are built, school board members said.

"I think people need to be heard," said board member Devon Conley. "But with that in mind, this is about placement and design and how this is going to work, and not whether or not it will happen."

Since last year, the school district has planned to construct so-called perimeter controls around all of its schools, including six-foot chain-link fences around school facilities and adjacent field space. The goal was to improve campus safety and deter intruders, but the proposal has since exploded into a citywide controversy.

Residents across Mountain View, particularly those living around Monta Loma and Landels elementary schools, have blasted the district for the proposal. They argue it does little to improve campus safety while blocking off access to valuable fields that have been used as neighborhood parks for decades. Others felt it was a betrayal of trust, and were unaware funds from the district's $259 million Measure T bond would be used to build fences.

The community is willing to compromise on the plans, but it has an "allergic reaction" to the kind of walls the district has proposed, district parent Tushar Moorti said at the Nov. 5 meeting. Some areas need fencing, he said, but enclosing all schools with chain-link barriers is not the welcoming environment that the community wants.

"We do not want to hear 'Yes, we are going to build a wall to keep people out' and 'We are going to make you pay for it, through Measure T funding,'" Moorti said.

Since October, the district has faced repeated criticism at meetings for not doing enough public outreach and for failing to understand the importance of public access to school fields. In the Monta Loma area, the school field is the only available green space within walking distance, making the proposal a hard pill to swallow.

District officials have vowed to keep gates that open onto the field unlocked outside of school hours, but the assurance has done little to take the edge off the opposition.

Unlike past meetings, where the proposal was universally panned, several school officials came out in support of the fences at the school board meeting and urged trustees to move forward. Bubb Principal Cyndee Nguyen -- speaking on behalf of more than a dozen teachers and staff at the school -- said she has to remind at least half a dozen people every day that they cannot walk on campus during school hours. In one incident, she said one of her students was walking to the restroom and was approached by a man who was not supposed to be on campus, triggering a call to law enforcement.

"When parents drop off their children at school, myself included, we're expecting not only that our students will receive a high-quality education but they will also be physically safe," Nguyen said.

Board member Devon Conley, who is a teacher, said school staff should not be responsible for policing school grounds during the day and be forced to confront people to shoo them off campus during school hours. She recalled one incident in which she was screamed at by a man with a dog, which was off leash, in front of her young students.

"Every minute that someone is having to tell somebody to leave campus who should not be there is a minute spent not focusing on the social-emotional well-being of our children and not focused on instruction," Conley said.

To ease the tension and win over community support, the district will be hosting "work groups" composed of parents, school staff and community representatives to figure out a middle ground on the proposed fencing plan into December. These work groups will be limited to the Monta Loma and Landels communities, said Rebecca Westover, the district's chief business officer.

Board member Ellen Wheeler said the district was taking too narrow a focus, and that other neighborhoods have felt their concerns have been ignored. She said the Bubb Elementary School community wants to be involved in the district's plans, and deserves to have a work group even if district administrators feel it's unnecessary.

"To say this is something we don't have to do -- that's not the kind of thing that helps people move forward and feel good about the end solutions," Wheeler said. "It's true we don't need any feedback, we can just vote on this and go forward. Our community members would feel disenfranchised and angry."

Parent Karen Dillan said the reluctance to meet with Bubb residents is strange, and that the school district could use the feedback from residents in the area to make the project a better fit within the community.

"I really am puzzled by this pushback from Westover and everyone that you can't have a community meeting with us the way you can with Landels and Monta Loma," Dillan said. "It's truly bizarre."

Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said he was reluctant to keep expanding the scope of community meetings and feedback, in part because of time constraints and huge plans to reopen schools during a global pandemic. He said there is also a part of the community that will never accept the district's plans and want fields to remain open even during school hours.

"We do have an obligation to make sure our kids are safe, and we do have an obligation that teachers shouldn't have to worry about this -- especially with COVID-19," Rudolph said. "People are very transparent that they still want to be able to walk through campus during school hours, and they knowingly walk across campus during school hours."

Board member Tamara Wilson, joining her colleagues, said the plans should move forward and that it's not an option to entirely nix the plan. She said it's the board's responsibility to keep students and school staff safe, and the overwhelming preference among school staff is to have perimeter fences installed.

Board member Laura Blakely said she was okay with delaying the plans to solicit more feedback, but that she herself has come around to the idea of perimeter controls, particularly in the aftermath of school shootings in Sandy Hook, Conn., and more recently in Parkland, Fla. The Parkland shooting sparked local concerns that more should be done to avoid a deadly shooting at Mountain View schools, including the installation of school fences.

Rudolph has called the fences a practical approach to student safety in the event of a school shooter, and said that perimeter controls are already common in schools throughout the region. Opponents have been skeptical, however, and say six-foot fences are easily scalable and could even create dangerous chokepoints.

One parent pointed out that school security has ballooned into a $2.7 billion industry with little research to back up the effectiveness of the safety measures.

Board member Jose Gutierrez said he was amenable to adding more community meetings, but said expanding the scope outside of Landels and Monta Loma feels like it's "after the fact" that the projects are moving forward. He said it also opens up the possibility that district administrators will be bombarded or harassed by people who dislike the proposed fences without gaining much in the way of value.

There is a lot of frustration and anger, Gutierrez said, but the district can't grind to a halt for everyone who feels they weren't counted.

"As long as it's respectful on both sides I wouldn't mind having another meeting, but this is it. We can't just open it up to everyone who doesn't agree with the district," Gutierrez said.

One additional community meeting will be held for the Bubb community, Rudolph said, some time before Nov. 19.

Comments

Surprise?
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:07 am
Surprise?, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:07 am
52 people like this

The "suprise pushback" from residents wouldn't have been nearly so surprising if the district had done *even a modicum of communication* with neighborhoods about the fact that our parks were going to be taken away.

To be clear, in Monta Loma at least, the latest district plan WILL take away park space, the only walkable park space in the neighborhood, during the day -- while people are home during a pandemic. It will put a playground that is heavily used by toddlers and preschoolers behind bars during the day. It will make a path that seniors use off limits. It will put an ugly, prison-like perimeter around our lovely park and for some reason they absoutely refuse to consider moving the fences close to the school as requested by the community. You can see why they tried to sneak this through without telling anyone.


Tal Shaya
Registered user
another community
on Nov 11, 2020 at 4:47 pm
Tal Shaya, another community
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 4:47 pm
41 people like this

"Thanks to all who provided feedback on this issue that we already decided. Your opinion counts! Well, not really."


Landels Neighbor
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 11, 2020 at 4:56 pm
Landels Neighbor, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 4:56 pm
31 people like this

A few thoughts / questions:

1. Have any children at Mountain View Public Schools been harmed by trespassers on school grounds?
2. How many complaints have been logged by school personnel or students in the prior two-three years? What are the costs (time / economic) of attending to those complaints?
3. Has the school board considered a fine program as an initial first step to see if another path is available? Levying fines on trespassers would be a de minimis source of revenue, but if some school official already has to talk to these (problematic) trespassers surely it would be possible to issue a ticket of some sort.
4. Has the board considered that there are substantial emotional benefits to children that arise from feeling like their school and grounds are safe and open, rather than another source of risk?
5. The Landels field is absolutely one of the most beautiful spots around in early morning - a fence would ruin it. Access to beauty matters in a community, for both adults and kids. Does beauty matter more than the safety of our kids? No, obviously and absolutely not. But I have not heard any person articulate a clear rationale for this program that weighs the costs (financial, community, aesthetic) of this proposal against the seemingly pretty nominal benefits (apparently avoiding nuisance disruptions?).


Puzzled
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 11, 2020 at 6:27 pm
Puzzled, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 6:27 pm
33 people like this

I have to say, this is some impressively bad decision making and pathetic level of community engagement for such a major change to our schools. For no valid reason whatsoever, you want to turn the outdoors of our campuses, beloved (and paid for) by a huge portion of our community into an ugly, inaccessible ghetto.

Let's break down some specific claims.

"Especially important with Covid-19" -- so the concern here is people walk across the field, get right up next to our kids to cough in their faces or something? I know you've done a lot of research on the disease, so I am baffled how you think a fence around a field will help prevent the spread. Have you spent literally any time on any of these fields?

"More should be done to avoid a deadly shooting at Mountain View schools" -- Is there any basis for the theory that a fence will help keep kids safe from a shooter? If a shooter wants to get in, they will cut the fence with a pair of $5 wire cutters in about thirty seconds. On the other hand, you will be blocking off most of the egress for kids attempting to get away from the scene, making them worse than sitting ducks. I'm sorry, but that nightmare scenario would be on your hands.

Please do us all a favor and go solve some of the actual issues facing our district.


Gary
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Nov 11, 2020 at 6:42 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 6:42 pm
14 people like this

Fences would help block some intruders - certainly not terrorists. But most intruders would be deterred and potentially identified by cameras covering entrances. Indeed, if the schools had had cameras before the election, the school district could be viewing the racist(s) or civil rights activist(s) writing on school buildings. Even with masks, intruders on camera can be sized up - if not caught.


Why bother engaging?
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Nov 11, 2020 at 8:44 pm
Why bother engaging?, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 8:44 pm
34 people like this

The board has made abundantly clear that they already decided, and all of this "engagement" is for show. Does anyone have the power to stop them? Can the City Council intervene? Who has standing to sue the district?

One thing is for sure: since they don't care about me as a resident, I will return the favor. The next time the district submits a funding request, asks for donations or proposes bonds, I will vote a big, round NO!


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Nov 12, 2020 at 11:43 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Nov 12, 2020 at 11:43 am
5 people like this

The voters who endorsed Trustee Blakely returning to a 'decision making' position should realize she will not change her approach (let the District Office handle the "HOW"). So, like SAVECOOPERPARK.ORG this administration's way of handling the "HOW" of community involvement (don't have to bother so much / really) may just continue.

I live close to Bubb and I disagree on the particulars Trustee Wheeler mentioned (and agree with Principal Cyndee). Bubb has the directly adjacent pre-K and K sized CITY OWNED BUBB PARK! It completely solves the problem that both Monta Loma and Landels have.

Please Listen to 'The educator on this Board', Conley, who was the only one I heard - EARLY - asking that community/neigborhood input meetings Not Be Dropped by Westover. (Pandemic or not). If you are a neighbor - of any school I hope you realize that the purchase and BEST COMMUNITY use of school property is direct support of students. SCHOOL FIELDS as 'parkland' is just an extra "special" benefit that MV City and MV schools have negotiated since the 1950s.


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Nov 12, 2020 at 12:58 pm
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Nov 12, 2020 at 12:58 pm
3 people like this

I'm sympathetic to all points of view here. It's great to be able to walk with my toddler onto school grounds when school is closed. Chain link fences would feel unsightly and unwelcoming.

On the other hand, it sounds like people do trespass onto the open grounds of the schools. I myself once tried to take my baby on a walk along the track at Crittenden Middle School, and was politely informed that I couldn't do that during the school day. Lesson learned!

I'm optimistic that everyone can come together and work out a reasonable solution. And hey, fences can always be added or removed later.


Your job is to listen!
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2020 at 3:07 pm
Your job is to listen!, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 12, 2020 at 3:07 pm
23 people like this

Anyone who attends school board meetings has seen how public comments have been reduced to almost nothing, so it is no surprise that these decisions were made with very little public input. Elected officials should be engaging with their constituents, not making decisions without considering or hearing about impact. With such huge decisions on the table such as school-reopenings and this fence issue, the current (and future board members) need to think clearly about what it means to be elected officials and do the work needed (meaning run meetings and public comments correctly and create time and space for feedback) to make informed decisions.


Bubb neightbor
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Nov 13, 2020 at 10:19 am
Bubb neightbor, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 10:19 am
10 people like this

Fact based decisions are needed to support replacing the current fencing and none have been forthcoming with regards to the number of threatening incidents as well as whether or not fencing would actually protect staff and students from a shooter or hinder escape and/or police ability to render aid. Fencing to protect from Covid-19 is a non-starter - how about spending the funds (& this is mainly about how to allocate those funds) to purchase protective face shields, masks, filters, etc. for the kids and staff? Most neighbors know not to go on campus during school hours. Perhaps better signage around the perimeter (ie. back entrance of Bubb near the after-care driveway?) Ignoring your neighbors will incent us to stop voting for more school funding.


Privilege
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Nov 13, 2020 at 10:36 am
Privilege, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 10:36 am
13 people like this

The entitlement of these posters is pretty potent stuff. You've already been told your lawful access to the school grounds - non school hours - will not change. But you're still throwing a tantrum?

"I should be able to go on campus any time I want, even though I'm not supposed to, and I'm mad that the school is not going to let me!"

Get over yourself, and let the school protect students and teachers and staff. Your hurt feelings are irrelevant.


@Privilege
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Nov 13, 2020 at 11:59 am
@Privilege, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 11:59 am
10 people like this

I wish our access was not changing but that's not the case. In Monta Loma the district has proposed putting a fence around the entire park, even the part that is the "city" portion. This is Option 2, the most recent option, that they are presenting. Look it up.

Web Link


Privilege
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Nov 13, 2020 at 12:34 pm
Privilege, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 12:34 pm
9 people like this

Wrong. The school owns that land, there is no such thing as a "city" portion. Your "right" to be on their property was never a right, you just think it is.


Parks
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2020 at 12:47 pm
Parks, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 12:47 pm
16 people like this

Perhaps people think Monta Loma is a city park because it is listed on the city's website as a city park. Oh, and also because of the signs from the City of Mountain View in the supposedly non-city park that's just for school kids. Who make up a small percentage of the city population, by the way.

Web Link

Monta Loma Park
Thompson Avenue & Laura Lane
Amenities include: Baseball field, basketball court, children's playground, passive areas, picnic area and restrooms


Old Steve
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Nov 13, 2020 at 1:19 pm
Old Steve, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 1:19 pm
6 people like this

@Parks

County Property records on the Assessor's website show the entire site belonging to the School District. I believe signs at the site explain the school hours restrictions.

APN 147-29-046


Resident of MV
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Nov 15, 2020 at 5:02 pm
Resident of MV, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Nov 15, 2020 at 5:02 pm
4 people like this

School fields are part of the schools, not public parks. No one is allowed on school grounds during school hours. It sounds like legal access during off hours to the school fields won't change. So why are people whining!?!


Nora S.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Nov 16, 2020 at 11:52 am
Nora S., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2020 at 11:52 am
16 people like this

@ Privilege

It is disingenuous to frame this as a dispute between students/parents on one side and the community on the other. I'm a MVWSD parent (nine years in the district and counting), and I am against these fences. They will not deter shooters, but they will hinder escape, and as such, make the campuses less safe. They also change the feeling of the campus for the students. My kids don't want to go to school in a cage. They have always enjoyed the open campuses we have here in MV. The idea of fencing feels like it is out-of-step with local culture.

I have read that the district administration is claiming that parents were asked about their opinions on this, but I was never made aware of such a survey. And I fill out all of the surveys from the district! Even though it feels futile. The district has a history of asking for parental input and then ignoring it, proceeding with their own ideas regardless. This is just one more instance.




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