Following controversial plans to bolster the fencing surrounding Lincoln Orens Middle School, Island Park’s Board of Education revealed that it is giving the same treatment to Francis X. Hegarty Elementary School.
At the June 11 BOE meeting, the board informed parents and residents that the fencing around the elementary school grounds will be receiving upgrades — specifically to the gates.
Superintendent Rosmarie Bovino explained that the several spaces throughout the fences, called serpentine openings, will be replaced with lockable gates. She said the purpose is to identify where school property begins, since currently visitors can freely walk in and out of the field as they please.
The plan is to lock the gates when school is in session and unlock them when classes end each day. The trustees said they are grateful for the community’s respect following the announcement of installing black chain-link fencing at the middle school and assured residents they too wish for the public to use the area as well.
“We just need to make sure everything is secure for the children,” Bovino said. Jack Vobis, board president, added, “It is for the safety of the children,” but reinforced the notion: “[The space] is all of our property.”
Present at the meeting was Officer Gregory O’Neill from Nassau County Police’s Emergency Services and Homeland Security to reinforce the board’s decision. He said his department looks at each and every school in Nassau County to ensure acceptable security is in place. “We’re not here to make it a fortress,” O’Neill said, noting the idea is to “deter” intruders, not prevent them altogether since “They’re going to [anyways] … that’s the harsh reality.”
He concluded, “The emphasis is on education … but security is the forefront.”