The Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 school board on Monday night approved a $37,663 bid by Northern Illinois Fence, in Cortland, to build a chain-link fence behind Glacier Ridge Elementary School.
Several residents who live near the school took issue with the fence during public comments at Monday’s board meeting. District 47’s administration has previously said that the fence is being put up for safety reasons, as they had concerns about students running out of school boundaries.
Crystal Lake residents Brad and Mallory Engelstad suggested a compromise where the school district builds a split-rail fence instead of a chain-link one.
“A split-rail fence ... would safely keep students within a boundary of the property, while also being aesthetically in line with the natural environment surrounding the schoolyard,” the Engelstads said.
They said Glacier Ridge has done very well for 19 years without a fence.
“The safety use case for a chain-link fence does not align with the need, as children who will run from a playground will be stopped by a split-rail fence just as easily as a chain-link [fence],” the Engelstads said.
The Engelstads said a split-rail fence would save the district money, which could then be used to buy more personal protective equipment, or disinfect playgrounds, as the district prepares to move into the upcoming year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crystal Lake resident Michael Sengstock, who lives by the elementary school, said the fence is an unnecessary waste of taxpayer money.
Although Sengstock acknowledged that there is a safety concern for some children who might try to run away, he said that other methods, such as paying more attention to these students or a smaller fenced-in area for them, would make more sense.
Board President Rob Fetzner pointed out that discussions over the Glacier Ridge fence started with the initial survey of the area that happened in July 2019.
Director of operations for District 47 Dave Schuh said the fence bid ended up being “well under” what the district originally budgeted for this work.
In response to a question on how the public could access the playground at the school with the fence in place, Schuh said the fence would have access gates going around it.
Those gates would be locked, but there would be one 4-foot gate out to the side street that would not be locked.
Instead, it would have a mechanism on it to close and secure it, Schuh said.
It was advised by contractors not to have these access gates on a split-rail fence, Schuh told the board.
Board member Ryan Farrell said he personally would be more in favor of a split-rail fence, as it still is an easy boundary to describe to students.
“[A split-rail fence] is still going to slow them down a little bit,” he said.
Farrell also said that if a student hopped a chain-link fence, it would be hard for a teacher to do the same and follow them.
“With a split-rail fence, I think you [could] more easily get after that student if there was an issue,” he said. “I don’t particularly like the look of the chain-link fence. I think that it does give off a prison kind of vibe, which I know is not what we’re going for.”
Board member John Pellikan said he agreed with Farrell. They both voted “no” on approving the bid, while the five other board members voted in favor of it.
Schuh said the district has the city permits ready to go, allowing them to begin work on the fence right away.
According to a timeline for the fence, it will be installed before the first day of school in August, with removal of shrubs and bushes along the fence line to take place between June 16 and June 26.