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Greenfield limits access to school grounds

Public won’t be allowed on property during school hours

GREENFIELD — Greenfield school grounds and parking areas are now closed to the public during school hours or school-related activities, according to a new policy passed by the Greenfield School Committee.

Originally drafted as an attempt to keep residents from walking during school hours on the land of a once-empty school building, the policy received heightened attention in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., last month.

The ruling limits access to school personnel and those who have business in the school — which would include attending an event or sports game, or voting during an election.

It applies from the time when students begin arriving at school until dismissal time in the afternoon, but also includes any after-school and evening activities that take place in the buildings.

Committee members stressed that the policy was not designed to alienate townspeople, but rather to create reasonable guidelines for the use of the grounds when school was in session.

The issue emerged this fall when faculty at the Green River School, located at 62 Meridian St., complained that people were walking their dogs behind the building during school hours.

Teachers were unsure who the people were and if they should approach them, and children were stepping in dog feces when they were outside, committee members said. Some people were also parking overnight in the school’s lot, they said.

The building — which now houses the Math and Science Academy and the district’s “foundations” program for autistic students — had been unoccupied for two years before re-opening this past fall.

“I really think that people that live in that area have just kind of habituated themselves to an empty building, and that’s totally normal,” said Daryl Essensa, who acted as chair during the meeting in the absence of Chairman John Lunt.

“People have gotten into habits that just aren’t conducive to conducting school business, so we’re just trying in that way to curb some of that activity,” she said.

Committee members said that in, the wake of the Newtown shooting, there was an added need to establish another level of security to the schools.

“I think people are unnerved, to say the very least, about what happened in Connecticut,” said member Maryelen Calderwood. “I think it’s reasonable to keep people at bay from being on school grounds.”

But Mayor William Martin, a committee member, said that the policy offered little real protection from a person who came to the school with intent to harm.

“This is really a no-trespassing policy,” he said. “Let’s be honest about this. It’s not protecting anything. ... It’s not preventing an attack.”

The School Committee approved the policy 4-1, with favorable votes from Calderwood, Essensa, Marcia Day and Doris Doyle.

Martin, the lone dissenting opinion, expressed disappointment that community members were not asked to share their input on the issue before it went up for vote.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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