Residents are divided on how to keep children safe

June 19, 2013

By Staff

Student safety at North Bend Elementary School is on the forefront of school officials’ and parents’ minds, but the question of how to keep students safe has many at odds.

Parents and school officials are in agreement that fencing the playground at North Bend Elementary School is necessary because of concerns about transients and drug use in North Bend. The question is how much of the playground actually needs to be fenced?

A petition put together by concerned parents of North Bend Elementary School asked that the playground be fenced for the safety of the children while in school. The issue was also brought before the Snoqualmie Valley School District school board during public comments at its June 13 meeting.

One proposed plan is to install a fence along the perimeter of the grass field adjacent to the playground, according to a post in the North Bend residents Yahoo group. North Bend resident David Spring, who is running for the District No. 4 seat on the school board, stated at the June 13 school board meeting that fencing the entire area is unnecessary.

“That petition specifically asked for the playground, not the park,” he said. “I urge all of you to read the petition and the comments of these 170 North Bend parents. Only one of the 170 parents mentioned fencing in the park.”

The total cost of fencing the perimeter is estimated at $12,000 and will be fully funded by donations, according to a post in the Yahoo group post.

Superintendent Joel Aune said the scope of the fencing project has not been determined.

“The goal was to have either a portion, or all of the playground, fenced in as close to the start of school next fall as possible,” Aune said. The decision of how much area will be fenced is still being discussed.”

Spring said at the June 13 school board meeting that he would like to see a public hearing on the matter.

“I understand that we don’t want to be second-guessing the administration on an issue,” Spring said. “We’re talking about a two-block-long park that is part of historical North Bend. There really isn’t a problem with the park.”

Spring said he just wants what is safest for the children.

“We do not intend to have a formal public hearing as requested by Mr. Spring,” Aune said. “This is not the type of issue that we would normally have a public hearing on. We certainly are open to people offering comments and suggestions, and answering questions like we always do.”

For North Bend resident Stephen Kangas, the further children can run from the playground, the less safe they will be. Kangas said that moving the fence to the perimeter would expand the playground, making it more difficult for teachers to monitor during recess. He said this gives children the opportunity to bully or harass other children.

Kangas is also running for the District No. 4 seat on the school board.

North Bend resident Phil Lacefield said he doesn’t feel that fencing the entire field would make the students any safer.

“If I were sitting at the school and I see someone reach over and grab a kid, it’s two blocks away, I can’t get there fast enough,” he said.

Lacefield said at the June 13 school board meeting that he spoke with Police Chief Mark Toner, who agreed that the larger area would be more difficult to police.

“None of us residents or North Bend Elementary parents dispute that fencing in the playground area makes sense,” Lacefield said at the meeting.

In a letter sent June 12 to the Yahoo group, Ryan Stokes, director of business services for the Snoqualmie Valley School District, wrote that residents can contact him with input and concerns, which will be taken into consideration as the plans progress.

 

Megg Joosten: 392-6434, ext. 221, or newsclerk@isspress.com. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.

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