East Williston school officials released more details Monday about fencing that will surround North Side Elementary School, revealing that the front of the building will have a three-foot-tall retaining wall and the remaining three sides will have a six-foot-tall, black cast aluminum fence.
John Grillo, the district's architect, said Monday that the front of the school facing East Williston Avenue will have a retaining wall made of slabs similiar to the stones used on the community's village green.
"This was recommended by [the federal Department of] Homeland Security in case any cars lose control and could go into the front of the school," Grillo said.
North Side 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. Along Downing Street, Wheatley Avenue and Andrews Road, there will be an estate-style fence, Grillo said. Those fences will feature four access points for supply trucks and two rolling gates for large lawn mowers and other maintenance equipment.
The school uses a grassy field at the corner of Andrews and Downing as part of its playground for recess. The fencing will not limit public access to the field, said school board president Mark Kamberg.
"Our property would be closed only during the hours that school is in operation," Kamberg said. "After hours, on weekends, and on holidays, all of our gates would be left wide open."
School board members began discussing adding a fence to North Side in fall 2017. There had been rumors circulating in the village about the district adding a fence, prompting the school board to discuss the idea in October 2017. School officials said a fence would also keep children from inadvertently running into the street and deter unauthorized adults from coming on school grounds.
Teacher’s aides monitor students during recess, but Principal James Bloomgarden said there have been instances every year of a student running to the road.
There is no price tag or construction timeline yet for the fence, Kamberg said.
East Williston resident Richard Abbate said he questions the need for a fence because most school shootings take place at high schools and rarely at New York State elementary schools.
"In 28 years, there have been zero shootings in all of those elementary schools," Abbate said. "Is a fence really necessary at all?"
School officials sent preliminary fence plans to the village and its fire department in October. District officials plan to meet Jan. 4 with village administration officials to answer additional questions. After that meeting, the district will submit its plans to the state. Kamberg said it will take three to six months to get the fence constructed after state approval.