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Residents Confront Wichita Public Schools Over Playground Fences

Stephan Bisaha

Some Wichita residents are upset about fences being erected around elementary school playgrounds.

The fences were approved last May during a Board of Education meeting. Fences are to go up around the playgrounds at all of the district’s elementary schools.

During Monday’s school board meeting, members cited the safety of children as the reason for the fencing, with $230,000 dedicated to the project set to be finished before the end of the year.

While the fences were not on the agenda, several residents signed up to give public comments during Monday’s meeting in opposition to the move. Before anyone spoke, school board president Mike Rodee read some remarks to dispel rumors, including one that the playgrounds would be locked down.

"There was not, nor ... (has there) ever been a recommendation to lock district playgrounds,” Rodee said.

Rodee blamed the misinformation on social media.

Monica Marks lives near Gammon Elementary School in east Wichita and collected signatures in opposition to the fence near her home. While she said she appreciated the clarification that the playgrounds would not be locked, the fence has been the main issue.

“You fenced a five-acre patch of grass that the school doesn’t use but the neighborhood has always used,” Marks said. “It was always meant to be public property."

One resident said he considered taking wire cutters to the fence.

"Just like all of my other neighbors have already talked about doing,” said K. Dallas Mapes, who also lives near Gammon. "I said, 'Not yet.' 

"But you’ve ruined my neighborhood with that fence. And a lot of people want that sucker down.”

Stephan Bisaha reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.