Long Beach parents, students fear "closed campus" will harm community

Thursday, October 10, 2019
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Parents and students are fighting to preserve access to a playground during non-school hours at Fremont Elementary School in Long Beach, after the school district revealed plans to enclose the campus.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Parents, students and community members in Long Beach are fighting to preserve access to the Fremont Elementary School playground.

"This is a community center. It's the community hub," said Fremont Elementary School parent, Jyoti Nanda.

Students were recently sent home with a letter, explaining that their school grounds in the Belmont Heights neighborhood would soon become a "closed campus." This would mean the playground would become enclosed, and there would no longer be access after school hours and during the weekend.

LBUSD is in the process of converting all of its 85 campuses into "closed campuses." As of right now, less than 30 remain "open."

"Generally, you want to have a single point of entry," said LBUSD spokesperson, Chris Eftychiou. "These measures also include buzzer-type entry systems and security cameras."

Eftychiou said the school district has allocated additional resources for security measures after parents addressed concerns following the school shooting in Parkland, F.L. in 2018.

"Safety is our primary concern and we take parents concerns seriously," he said.

"I know they want to keep our kids safe," said Krista Richardson, whose children attend Fremont Elementary School. "We just don't want our playgrounds to go away because we're scared it might have the opposite effect."

Fremont parent, Jyoti Nanda is an Associate Professor of Law and Golden Gate University. She taught law at UCLA for 16 years, and started a youth and justice clinic.

"One of the things we know about safety is that safety comes from community when people know each other and feel connected to the school," Nanda said. "To me the irony about enclosing a school on the evenings and weekends is taking away that safety."

Nanda helped coordinate a protest earlier this month, where parents, students and community members voiced their concerns in a march around the perimeter of the school.

"If they fence off the whole school, then people who come here every day will be sad because this is freedom space," said fifth grader, Liv Richardson.

Another concern from children and parents is that, without the playground, children will no longer have a safe place to play after school and during the weekend.

"We have a great mix in our neighborhood of apartments and homes, many of which have small or no yard," said Krista Richardson. "Every kid needs access to a free and open space like this."

Parents and students took their concerns to a LBUSD Board of Education meeting, along with a solution.

"We just want to play," said fifth grader, Lisette. "We're OK with people fencing it for safety when we're in class, but we're just asking if we can play around on the weekends and after school time."

LBUSD said that staff is taking these concerns into consideration and will discuss other options at an upcoming meeting.