Fences popping up like mushrooms

Sandra Clark

Imagine the shock of Patti Bound when a chain link fence appeared around part of the campus of Brickey-McCloud Elementary School, a short distance from her home. “Why should I know anything,” she said when asked. “I’m only on the Board of Education.”

Bounds was surprised to learn that new fencing is coming for Powell Middle School, also in her district. She said fencing has never been discussed during her two years on the board.

Gus Paidousis, security chief for Knox County Schools, said seven campuses will be fenced this summer. “We continue to put fencing in place to improve access control.” The fencing started in the fall of 2013 following a districtwide security assessment. It’s funded through the KCS’s security budget which also funds video monitors and cameras.

There is a school resource officer (SRO) at each campus and often a Sheriff’s deputy or city police officer as well.

Paidousis said fencing was a priority of one-third of principals surveyed. “We started with our elementary schools where portable classrooms and playgrounds were wide open. We’ve fenced 20 schools – two middle schools and the rest elementary.”

On tap for this summer are Whittle Springs and Powell middle schools, along with Brickey-McCloud, Ritta, West Hills, Beaumont and Halls elementary schools. All projects are different, he said, and costs range from $20,000 to $100,000 per school.

In addition to the cost, the fences are playing havoc with plans to build sidewalks and greenways so kids can walk or bike to school.

At Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy, a six-foot fence was erected on one side of a greenway even though a four-foot fence was already in place on the other side – making this the best protected greenway in town.

Russ Oaks, chief operating officer for KCS, said the new fence does not obstruct the greenway while the older fence is around a playground. Incoming principal Amy Brace has asked that the shorter fence be removed.

At Karns Elementary, security fencing blocked entrance to the campus for kids walking across a community-sponsored bridge over Oak Ridge Highway. Paidousis said that problem was fixed last year by relocating a gate.

The fences are secure during the school day and will be left open for community use at other times, he said.

Are we overdoing this?

“My general philosophy is the more fencing the better,” said Paidousis, but “we have enough people in the loop to keep us even.”

In addition to the school principal, the team includes someone from the central office, generally Oaks, and Dennis Archer of the maintenance department. Archer’s job is to ensure access for mowing and maintenance and to fire hydrants.

“Generally, the feedback from parents has been very positive,” said Paidousis. He prefers chain link fencing with a black vinyl coating. He keeps fencing away from the front of buildings, when possible, and sometimes uses decorative fencing, like at New Hopewell in South Knox.

Other upgrades

Knox County Schools has several construction projects underway this summer, some funded through the capital budget and others through the maintenance department.

KCS will build two middle schools (Gibbs and Hardin Valley), and both are under design.

Work at Pond Gap Elementary is going well, according to Russ Oaks. “We’re ahead of expectations” for the project, which is visible from I-40 westbound. He expects to have students in the new wing as early as winter. Then the existing school will be updated and retrofitted to accommodate its increased enrollment.

Inskip Elementary School’s $6.5 million upgrade will start upon selection of an architect. Doug Dillingham, supervisor of facilities, is overseeing these projects.

Other updates were provided by Jim French, supervisor of maintenance:

■ Karns and Central high schools, new switch gears for elevators

■ South-Doyle Middle School, interior paint and new lockers (to be installed during fall break)

■ Powell High, added insulation for auxiliary gym

■ Inskip and New Hopewell, asbestos abatement in floors

■ West View and Fountain City, cafeteria upgrades

■ Austin-East and West, replacement air conditioners for gym

■ Bearden, Carter, Farragut and Halls High, new air conditioners for gym. (This will leave just “5-6 high schools and 3-4 middle schools” without gym A/C, said French.

■ Fountain City Elementary, new gym floor

■ Bearden High School, auditorium upgrades – new seats, painting, floor covering and lighting

■ West Haven, addition of loop road to improve traffic stacking

■ Karns Elementary, more pavement for roads and parking on campus, with traffic flow redesigned to “mitigate but not fix the congestion”

■ Shannondale, paving parking lot, moving a gate and pouring a sidewalk.

French expects all projects to be completed before school starts.

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