Counsel representing the East Williston school district and the Village of East Williston will meet early next month to further discuss the erection of a retaining wall and fence at the North Side School.
Debate over the erection of the fence has been ongoing at meetings of the district’s Board of Education and the village’s Board of Trustees for months. Though a specific date was not provided, Assistant Superintendent for Business Diane Castonguay said the meeting is scheduled for the first week of January.
Efforts to reach the school district clerk and village attorney for confirmation of the meeting date were unavailing.
At its meeting Monday night, the East Williston Board of Education invited district architect John Grillo of JAG Architects to present the plans for the three-foot-tall brick retaining wall at the front of the school and a six-foot-tall black estate fence surrounding the school property. Grillo responded to 12 issues regarding the fence raised in a series of letters that the village sent the Board of Education.
The brick retaining wall proposed for the front of the school was recommended by the county Department of Homeland Security in case any drivers lose control and end up on the front lawn of the school, Grillo said. The district clarified that the wall would not completely wrap around the school, Grillo said.
Twenty-foot-wide rolling access gates will be located at the south and west portions of the fence for vehicles like rideable lawnmowers and firetrucks, Grillo said.
The regular access gates for students, faculty and staff will be closed only during school hours for safety purposes, Mark Kamberg, president of the Board of Education, said.
“After hours, weekends, holidays, all of our gates will be left wide open for public use,” he said.
Resident Richard Abbott said he understood why parents and others support the erection of a fence, but questioned the board on its feasibility and necessity.
“They want the safety of their children no matter what the age,” Abbott said. Abbott’s son works two blocks from London Bridge, where in June 2017 a terrorist deliberately drove into pedestrians, killing eight. “I am concerned and we are all concerned.”
“But the question here is how many elementary school shootings are there here in America?” Abbott said. There are 3,564 elementary schools in the state, according to Abbott, and in 28 years there have been no shootings, he said.
Abbott said he agreed with the erection of the retaining wall for protection against cars driving recklessly near the school, but did not find the fence necessary.
“We certainly recognize there hasn’t been yet, but what we’re being recommended to do is to prevent what could be,” Kamberg said.
Wheatley School Principal Sean Feeney, co-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, also presented the district’s next five-year strategic plan at the meeting. The 13-member committee included district administrators, teachers and parents.
The plan is the result of a year-long process that engaged all members of the school community to identify and prioritize areas of focus for the next five years beginning this year, Feeney said.
Based on community response, four priority areas were identified among 15 different educational dimensions. The priority areas are science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, real-world learning, social and emotional learning, and facilities and security.
Over the next five years, the district will assess the current status of the target fields in the curriculum and put in place adjustments to continue integrating and improving each priority area, Feeney said.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14.