Community to meet on Chamisa security fence

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Safety plan measure > Fence is first line of defense for children

By Tris DeRoma

School and law enforcement officials have taken the first steps toward implementing a safety plan for the school district’s seven schools.

Chamisa Elementary School is scheduled to be the first Los Alamos School District campus to be equipped with a gapless, 6-foot-tall chain link security fence installed around the perimeter of the campus.

The community will be able to participate in a meeting Dec. 12 at Chamisa Elementary to discuss the school’s security fence upgrade.

Chamisa Elementary Principal Suzanne Lynne said having a higher and tighter fence should make the school safer for everyone.

She said there have been issues with animals and non-custodial parents being on campus when they weren’t supposed to be there.

“We have recess, so we can have someone walk up and take their kid, so it would help,” Lynne said of the fence.

Chamisa Elementary School already has a four-foot chain link fence around most of the perimeter.

The meeting will be at Chamisa Elementary Gym. from 6-7:30 p.m.
Chamisa Elementary School already has a four-foot chain link fence around most of the perimeter.

Lynne and others are aware that there are some who oppose the project over aesthetics.

Lynne said they are going to avoid making the school look fenced in as much as possible, while, at the same time, making the school safer for everyone.

The district recently received a $36,000 matching grant that will allow the school to fill in the gaps and make it 2 feet taller. The estimate for the entire project was for $70,000 with the district covering the rest of the cost.

“We want to complete the fence, because there are portions of the grounds that do not have fencing,” Lynne said.

According to Lynne, building a fence around the school will bring the school into compliance with state law and provide better security.

The plan also received input from a risk assessment company, Poms and Associates, that does risk assessment recommendations for public schools around the state.

The Los Alamos Police Department also recommended having the campus fully fenced in.
LAPD Cmdr. Preston Ballew said having a secure fence makes bad people think twice about doing harm.

“What it will do is create a first line of defense in protecting our children and teachers,” Ballew said. “…There are many layers to a school plan in terms of safeguards. This is the first step. Access control is No. 1.”

The project does not have a start date, but since the grant went through, the fence is going to be upgraded.

“What this meeting is about is input and information, where we will show drawings about what it will look like,” Lynne said about December’s meeting.

Lynne said that she also wants to assure everyone that the community will always have the same access to the campus on the weekends and evenings that it has always enjoyed. People will still be able to walk their dogs and children will still be able to access the playgrounds once the fencing is upgraded.

“They’ve been playing on this playground and on the school grounds at night and on the weekends forever,” Lynne said. “That won’t change.” 

Lynne also said the fence will not go across the entire front of the school as to make it look hemmed in, but it will be enough assure school officials that the campus is secure.

“It will not feel imposing,” Lynne said. She also said that the gates in the back and front of the school would be open at the beginning of the school session and during closing so as not to impede traffic.

It was Poms and Associates that recommended making the fence 6 feet in height. Poms and Associates Senior Risk Manager Kevin Vigil said the recommendation is based on state law. 

“The standard that we would have applied for that particular recommendation comes from New Mexico Administrative Code, Title 6, Chapter 27, Part 30,” Vigil said.

“That particular section references school security… that’s where we draw that recommendation from.”

Poms and Associates also assessed in 2018 Los Alamos Middle School, Los Alamos High School, and Piñon Elementary.

Chamisa was assessed by Poms and Associates last year.

Lynne said the fencing upgrade will give school officials more control over who comes on to campus, not just at Chamisa, but eventually at all of the Los Alamos schools.

“What we want is a perimeter fence that gives us access control,” Lynne said. “Doing so will cause everyone to access the school through the front entrance. It’s actually a state law to have perimeter fencing. Eventually all of the Los Alamos schools will have it.”

Chamisa Elementary is located on Meadow Lane in White Rock.