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After battle over school fences, Mountain View Whisman seeks $9M redesign of Monta Loma's park

Original post made on Jun 18, 2021

The Mountain View Whisman School District is looking to completely revamp Monta Loma Park following a controversial decision to fence off public access during school hours, which prompted significant backlash from nearby residents.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 18, 2021, 1:59 PM

Comments (21)

Posted by Cfrink
a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 18, 2021 at 3:20 pm

Cfrink is a registered user.

It’s strange to me that “the Monta Loma” community members “felt blindsided” by the fencing project. This was a major aspect of the Bond Team’s presentation to all the schools and PTAs during the campaign. We were explicit in our explanation about how the money would be used, there was a website, social media, an infographic, and emails were sent out. That school community totally was made aware of these changes and the reason for the changes when we asked for their votes and their donations.

Regardless, these changes are being requested at the behest of the non school community. The school district has to keep students safe during school hours. That assessment has been made and the fences are needed for safety.

If the local residents need a public space for pre-school aged children to have an open space to play during school hours, that’s a public park issue which falls squarely on the city and should st least in part come from a city budget. Hopefully, the two teams can work out a suitable work around for local residents.

Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jun 18, 2021 at 3:40 pm

SRB is a registered user.

Concerns around student safety and park access are the same across the City. I hope both City and School District look at equity in making these decisions. As a taxpayer, I'd hate to help finance a situation where one tier of neighborhoods have fenced-in school parks and another tier vastly improved public access to school park on the City dime.

Posted by gretchen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 18, 2021 at 3:44 pm

gretchen is a registered user.

As a daily park user for 40 years, I agree that children need to be safe. So do children, adults and elders using the park. Forcing all normal "park activity" (walking running, biking, skate boarding, dog walking, picnicking, and kids catching balls) into a very narrow and contained space, I have concern for public safety. In the dozen or so meetings I have attended since last fall, I have never heard anyone except a district employee or a teacher talk about unsafe condition for children. These may well exist, but have not been expressed by parents or community members at school board, city council, or working group meetings. Somehow this has become a we win you lose confrontation. I for one want safe kids, and a safe community green space for more than 1000 homes. There should be room for both.

Posted by Ellie
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 18, 2021 at 11:07 pm

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Cfrink , I consider myself a Monta Loma community member as I am living in the neighborhood of Monta Loma however none of my children attended the elementary school so we are not a member of the Monta Loma School community. I did not therefore attend the school and PTA presentations on this topic that you mentioned which perhaps showed a big fence going all around the greenspace. I voted for the measure and can recall perhaps mention of fencing but did not realize that the greenspace belonged to the school and that this would be fenced. The fact that the actual sign for City of Mountain View Monta Loma Park is on the green space is misleading as it had me assuming (like probably many others) that it belonged to the City of Mountain View and maybe the City had an arrangement for the school to use it during school hours - not the reality that it was the other way around! The neighborhood really needs this greenspace and hope this can be sorted out.

Posted by Raymond
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 19, 2021 at 10:26 am

Raymond is a registered user.

It should be noted that other elementary school fencing affects spaces near other parks. Monta Loma folks would be driving to access alternative park space. The City of Mountain View intends to vastly increase the number of residents throughout the city, with what plans for added park space?

Posted by Concerned neighbor
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 19, 2021 at 1:11 pm

Concerned neighbor is a registered user.

That is a lot of money to spend on an architect at a time I don’t believe is necessary. Two other concerns from that board meeting:
1. Upon bestowing superintendent the same 4% raise all other employees are receiving Dr Westover also approved home loan again. I see it is now $1.6 million instead of $1.2 million originally offered.
2. Aren’t the principals and all other administrators qualified to hold those positions after achieving the required credentials, etc? Is it necessary to hire coaches for each of them?

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2021 at 1:48 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

"playground modernization, outdoor learning space, fences and other upgrades could cost a grand total of $11.1 million" That playground is pretty convoluted presently. With the pandemic they probably found issues with having no location for outdoor classes. It seems likely that much of the reconfiguration of the playground has nothing to do with providing public access. You could blame the previous public access practice for the last 50 years for the convoluted nature of the playground layout, but even if it was all fenced it, it would still be convoluted and impractical for outdoor learning. It seems to me that the right design could reduce the fencing expenses, which were greater at Monta Loma than they needed to be.

Posted by Jeremy Hoffman
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jun 19, 2021 at 7:48 pm

Jeremy Hoffman is a registered user.

I don't claim to understand the bureaucratic and financial situation with the school grounds, but I feel like a reasonable accommodation might be met if the southern playground and surrounding area were ceded to serve as a public park, with the area closer to the school fenced off for safety. I'm sure the devil is in the details. That's why such projects can cost millions of dollars to design and implement.

Posted by Mark
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 19, 2021 at 9:50 pm

Mark is a registered user.

Members of the school board should take a walk through the streets adjacent to the park & school neighborhood. They might be amazed to see the number of "Save Our Park" signs which sprouted up in the wake of their one sided decision to make the area "safer" for school students. One solution may be to leave things just as they are- place signs & stanchions on the school lawn that announce no further access past this point, which are removed at the end of the school day (or week). That's a lot better than a big, stupid, ugly, and monetarily wasteful fence which only reinforces the idea that schools are merely but prisons for children, and that the world and City of Mountain View (in particular) is awash in suspicious predators, and that "freedom of movement" is just a quaint idea once favored by those who wrote the Constitution.

Posted by DEWT
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 20, 2021 at 6:01 pm

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Why does the school board so bent on keeping neighborhood people out of our school parks? Putting up fences turns the schools into prisons for children rather than making them safe. The school board tried to eliminate our beloved Cooper Park. Now they are after other neighborhood parks.

Remember to vote out those board members trying to take away our parks in the next election.

Posted by Free Speech
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 20, 2021 at 7:56 pm

Free Speech is a registered user.

It seems that Whisman School District cannot be trusted to run a bath, let alone their enormous budget. The district seems to be in a perpetual boom or bust cycle - desperately short of cash one day and then finding funds they didn't know they had - only to spend it all on giving themselves pay raises. This suggested expenditure is outrageous. Does taxpayer money grow on trees? Are we expected to support the finances of incompetents without question?
Building cages around our schools will not make them safer. In the event of a violent threat, students, teachers and staff would be trapped whereas any potential attacker(s) will only need to bring along bolt cutters. Open space is at a premium throughout the city and it should be available to all MV residents to enjoy without the restriction of ill conceived "security" plans.

Posted by Scott Lamb
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 21, 2021 at 6:26 am

Scott Lamb is a registered user.

Cfrink, as someone who didn't yet have a kid at Monta Loma Elementary, I voted for Measure T without studying the fencing plans. It never occurred to me they'd fence off the green space. Shame on me, I guess? Until now, voting for education has been totally automatic. I've voted yes literally every time. What the fence situation has taught me is that I have to be more cautious about giving money to this school board. Sad lesson.

Posted by mikepat
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 21, 2021 at 10:32 am

mikepat is a registered user.

it may interest readers to know that one of the 111 incidents was someone turning in something to "lost and found".

Posted by Monta Loma Resident
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 21, 2021 at 6:05 pm

Monta Loma Resident is a registered user.

The Monta Loma Park is the only walkable green space available to a community of 3000 residents. We’ve used this as a park for sixty years, the city labeled this as a park for sixty years, and whenever an opportunity came to build out neighboring areas (like the planned housing in the space now occupied by Google X) and we asked for park space, we were told that we had Monta Loma Park, and that it was enough for us. We were lied to.

The School District told us initially the fence was to prevent “Parkland style incidents” - and when it was pointed out Parkland had a 6-8 feet fence, and that fences introduce choke points, the district changed its tune. Now it was all about saving the kids from these “incidents”. Some of us have had the opportunity to look at the raw data- and the analysis is highly misleading- most incidents are parents waiting for their children with other siblings, lingering on to talk to other parents after drop off, grandparents or nannies with toddlers, two “incidents” involving a neighbor returning items to lost and found. There have been no dog bites in that period - or for that matter for decades in the past. This has been a non-issue for the past sixty years, and we do not understand the real reasons why the district is so intent on this.

Worse: the district moved all summer school to Monta Loma this year, locking us out of the park during daytime on weekdays. The city rents out the fields to sports leagues during weekends- and this effectively means that we have no parks for most of summer.

All the new home and office construction planned by the city is on the south side- where we singularly park-starved. This is an equity issue- many of the residents living here (including some currently living in Monta Loma) have no backyards. What does the city and district expect us to do?

Does this help people understand the level of anger and distrust that we the residents of Monta Loma have towards both the city and the school district?

Posted by resident
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 22, 2021 at 8:23 am

resident is a registered user.

@cfrink I read the language in the bond measure, it said "perimeter fencing" which I assumed (my bad) to mean the school and not the fields. Other commenters have noted that the sign at the Thompson Street entrance LITERALLY says, "City of Mountain View, Monta Loma Park" so I take offense at the insinuation in your comment that residents should have been aware the green space was not city owned. How would we infer it was district property when the sign states otherwise? Further, I read the entire list of 'incidents.' Out of 111 reported incidents the district identified 6 of being significant. 1 of the 6 was a student eloping from the front of the school, this would not be impacted by perimeter fencing as the child exited through the existing fence! I agree with the need for student and staff safety but I believe that safety can be achieved without the need for a 6ft fence. Easy, Cheap, Quick 'solutions' are not reflective of the creativity that we have as a community.

Posted by Scott Lamb
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 22, 2021 at 12:25 pm

Scott Lamb is a registered user.

I'm looking at the "campus access log" now. Here's what I see:

* The incidents I find most concerning have nothing to do with the green space. One row says "German Shepard lunged at, growled and showed aggression toward a 1st grade student who was visibly upset and parent was upset". I'd be upset too! But it was "in front of MUR". Improving fencing in this area is what I expected from the language in the ballot measure, and I'm unaware of anyone opposing it.

* Most rows describe people doing normal park activities in an area marked as a park, without presenting any danger to the students or teachers. For example, "2pm - family with small children picnicing on the field". This happened on 3/22/21 (iirc before there were bollards around the field), so I don't think it was obvious this is school property. Was the school using the field at the time? (I think it's usually empty during the school day.) Just a noticeable map saying what areas are available to the public or not during the school day probably would have addressed most of these, without a fence. Or they could have done nothing—I don't see evidence this picnic interfered with any school activities.

This log doesn't support the statement "Monta Loma had to deal with intruders 111 times over the course of seven weeks this year" as a justification for fencing off the green space.

I'm glad the district at least has listened enough to announce a change of plans. However I don't trust them to communicate honestly and openly, don't know why this will take $9 million to solve, and don't feel confident that the community will be happy with the new plans.

Posted by Scott Lamb
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 22, 2021 at 2:24 pm

Scott Lamb is a registered user.

The other problem with the log is that every incident here happened well after they'd already decided to fence the green space. It's by definition a post hoc justification. Where is the evidence they used to decide it was necessary to spend taxpayer money reducing public access to what the big sign says is a public park?

Posted by Raymond
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 22, 2021 at 3:15 pm

Raymond is a registered user.

Monta Loma residents "intruding" into school property are part of the security of the Monta Loma school.
No past incidents have been recalled that resulted in police involvement. Ever.
Existing fencing is often left unlocked and even open, indicating realistic level of concern over safety & security in this neighborhood.
A long-gone city council made a deal with a long-gone school board, avoiding expenditure of city funds to provide a city owned park. The current city council should help facilitate neighborhood access to park space.
No Trump fences; No children in cages.

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 23, 2021 at 9:43 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

I commend Trustee Christopher Chiang for being the lone sensible vote (No). It does not make sense at this time to spend up to 3/4 million dollars for concepts and community meetings. Much less could be spent (after City agrees to 1/2 the money, Parks and Recreation Commission?) for testing "perimeter fencing" in several different temporary configurations. (3 months Alpha, 3 months Beta, 3 months Gamma).

Glad at least Chiang considers saving money for "classrooms" to be a first priority. And that he knows Board makes the Public Policy decisions - not the staff or hired contractor-architects.

Posted by Ray
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 7, 2021 at 1:05 pm

Ray is a registered user.

I think the yellow Bollards they are putting up during school hours would seem to have solved the problem..yes?

Posted by Ray
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 7, 2021 at 1:07 pm

Ray is a registered user.

I think the yellow Plastic towers they are putting up during school hours would seem to have solved the problem..yes?

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