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Plans For Security Fence at Kennedy High Face Opposition From Some School Board Members

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PATERSON, NJ – In an effort to make the Kennedy High complex safer, city education officials are planning to put a fence around the school.

But some school board and community members are not happy about the idea. They say it will have a negative impact on the appearance of the school and make it look more like an institution.

“This is one of the most beautiful facilities we have in the City of Paterson,’’ said board member Alex Mendez. “We should reconsider the decision.’’

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State-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans said the fence was needed for security reasons. Last school year, there were numerous fights outside the school. In some cases, the fights involved youths who were not students at the Kennedy schools. Officials have said the city’s street gangs have been part of the problem.

Evans said he asked the city police and Passaic County sheriff’s department if they could conduct extra patrols at the high school. But both law enforcement agencies said they were too short-staffed to lend extra help, said Evans.

“We are left to our own devices to solve a very serious issue,’’ said Evans.

Board members asked Evans why the security staff at Kennedy couldn’t handle the problem without the fence. There are between 30 to 40 security guards and off-duty police officers assigned to the school, according to the superintendent.

But Evans said the layout of the building made it difficult to monitor.

Back in March, plans for the fence triggered a special meeting among city and school board officials. At that time, board members thought that the fence plan had been quashed.

But at Wednesday’s school board meeting, the commissioners noticed that the fence was on a list of projects to be done before the start of the school year.

“This has not come up in any facilities meetings in recent months,'' said board member Chrystal Cleaves. “When did it resurface?’’

The superintendent said the district started discussing the fence again two or three months ago. He said the type of fence would different than what had been planned earlier in the year. The new plan was for a “more modest” fence, he said.

Mendez said the fence installed at Eastside has not made a difference in security there and he doubted the one at Kennedy would help matters. But Evans disagreed. “The fence at Eastside has made a huge difference,’’ he said.

The school board’s facilities committee, of which Mendez is chairman, will hold an emergency meeting about the fence next week, officials said.

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