Staff editorial: Fence falls short of enhancing parking lot safety

December 19, 2010 — by third-period Falcon staff
Photo by Jordan Waite

The new fence aims to improve pedestrian safety.

In recent weeks, students walking onto campus from the parking lot may have noticed a curious new obstacle—a black railed fence obstructing their path. The fence extends across the the division between the parking spaces and drop-off area in order to force students to walk around it and, theoretically, through the white pedestrian walkways before crossing into the school.

While the school’s efforts to promote safety are indeed admirable, going as far as to put up a fence is an overbearing and unnecessary approach. Unsurprisingly, many students seem to dislike it.

From early on in the year, it became clear the school would take a stance on forcing students to pay closer attention to the rules while crossing the road. The school even directed campus supervisors to watch students as they crossed the road during the morning drop-off period and ensure that they walked between the white walkway.

This process seems to have gone without incident, leaving us to wonder why the school would feel the need to implement further restrictions such given that a supervisor is always on site during rush hour.

The fence is undoubtedly an inconvenience to students, making them feel trapped upon entering the school and adding to the already to the notorious prison-like aesthetic of the campus.

One of the most notable flaws of the fence is the lack of entrance near the gym; instead, gym users will now have to trek to the complete ends of the parking lot to reach their cars which might only be parked several feet away. While administrators argue that safety trumps convenience, there simply is not a pressing need to install a fence when there is already a responsible adult to oversee the crossing process.

Furthermore, high schoolers should be given more credit as to their ability to make safe decisions. An elementary school might require officials to guide students across the road and a fence to ensure a lack of rules violations, but teenagers are smart enough to cross the road without having their hands held.

These issues aside, it seems that the fence fails in entirely to cover the potential safety issue it seeks to address. Short of spanning a fence across the entire school, there is no way to ensure that students are always going to take the time to walk between the designated crossing walkways.
For example, students walking from locations such as the McAfee Center or the sophomore lot can cross the road freely without being impeded by the fence and may choose whether or not to cross through the designated walkway. Students parking in the sophomore lot do not have to deal with a fence when crossing the road, so why should such impositions be placed on those parking in the junior or senior lots? In fact, traffic congestion near the swimming pool and sophomore parking lot creates one of the most dangerous areas in the lot.

The reality is that a fence cannot force students to follow the rules. That is the precise purpose of having a staff member around to watch and enforce those rules. Beyond that, the implementation of a fence is simply uncalled for, ineffective in practice and an unwise use of money. In a time of tight budgets and increased class sizes, the money that paid for the fence—whether from public or private funds—could be best spent in other areas.

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect is that there does not appear to have been much dialogue prior to the implementation of the fence. An administrative decision resulted in the fence being put up without major student or faculty input. If there was indeed a compelling reason for its construction, it remains unknown to the student population.

If the school really wants to show that it cares about student safety, a fence is not the answer. Other more pressing safety issues raised previously by this newspaper remain to be addressed, such as how parents pull into the parking lots during morning drop-off, even more endangering the safety of students. Yet, there is no fence—let alone strict supervision—to curb this practice.
While the administration should be praised for trying to promote a safe environment for its students, the Falcon is convinced that a fence is not the best means of going about this.
The Saratoga Falcon voted 34-3 in opposition of the fence.

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