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Student safety prompts talk of fencing at East Williston school

Officials said they are concerned about elementary students

Officials said they are concerned about elementary students chasing balls into the street during recess at North Side School in East Williston. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The East Williston Union Free School District is considering building a fence around North Side School to help address concerns about student safety, but village residents are divided on whether fencing is necessary at the elementary school.

School board president Mark Kamberg and other district officials gathered Tuesday night with residents to discuss the issue. Kamberg said the meeting stemmed from three months of rumors circulating around the village about the district moving toward fencing the school and apologized about the hearsay.

“There have been no previous discussions in regards to a fence, there have been no plans in regard to a fence, there have been no decision in regards to a fence,” Kamberg said.

During the meeting, school officials and parents said they are concerned about students running onto busy streets to chase after balls during recess.

A fence would “keep children from inadvertently running into the street to chase a ball, keep young children from inadvertently running off school property when they see something of interest and deter unauthorized adults from accessing school grounds,” said Nicholas Fusco, the district’s school facilities director.

The school campus takes up an entire block and is bordered by Wheatley and East Williston avenues, which have heavy vehicle traffic, and Downing Street and Andrews Road, which are residential streets. The school uses a grassy field at the corner of Andrews and Downing as part of its playground for recess.

Teacher’s aides monitor students during recess, but Principal James Bloomgarden said there are two instances every year of a student running to the road for a ball.

Todd Atkin, a Nassau County Police officer whose patrol includes the school, said adding a fence would be a good idea and noted that elementary and middle schools in neighboring districts already have fencing.

But some residents at the meeting said a fence would ruin the look of the school grounds.

“The fence is going to create a penitentiary,” said Matthew Cuomo, who lives across the street from the school. “If you fence that in, it’s going to cut it off from the community. I love living across from that area because it’s an open, beautiful field.”

Another resident echoed Cuomo’s sentiments.

“If you put up a fence, the charm will be gone,” said Richard Abbatte. “And a fence includes a lot of maintenance.”

Kamberg instructed a special safety committee to study how a fence would impact the school grounds. The committee will present those findings at a later date.

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