New fencing, panic bars and public use facilities

School installs new panic bars, fencing, and public facilities


Construction of new fencing and implementation of panic bars took place over summer throughout the district as a safety precaution in case of emergencies.

Oak Park has constructed additional fencing at the backs of the campuses to increase the safety of all students.  In order to maintain Oak Park High School’s reputation as an open campus, school administration has made it clear that the front side of campus is to remain open.

The fencing was not installed to prevent students and staff from leaving. Oak Park does not have any major problems with students ‘ditching’ during the school day. The fencing’s primary function is to prevent outsiders from coming unannounced onto campus.

Assistant principal Jason Meskis said that a campus supervisor has been positioned at each entrance, so that anyone who enters campus can be seen.

“Before the fencing that is all along the back, there [were] just too many access points on the campus. It was too easy to come up by the back library there if they wanted to come on, or the lower field to come on, or by the cages,” Meskis said.

The only access points to the campus are by the C-building, the Pavilion, the Great Lawn and the G and R buildings.

“[It’s] just a security measure to make it easier to secure the campus,” Meskis said.

Principal Kevin Buchanan said that the new fencing is not limited to just OPHS.

“Every school in the district has added fencing” Buchanan said. “We didn’t do a huge amount, but what we did do was significant.”

Buchanan said that if a perpetrator is intent on inflicting harm on campuses, then the number of fences may not be sufficient to prevent damages. For example, Columbine High School had armed guards at the time of their 1999 school shooting, and Sandy Hook Elementary School’s locked front entrance didn’t prevent a mass shooting in 2012.

Another issue that the school has been facing is Oak Park residents using school facilities during school hours.

“During the school day, there’s not supposed to be anyone from the outside on campus,” Meskis said. “One of the issues we were having with the lower field and even the lower track was people thought that ‘Oh, I can come use that.’ And even though school’s in session it’s like, well, who’s down here? What are they doing?’”

Following the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, California legislators have introduced a number of bills to increase school safety.

Senate bill AB 320, proposed by Democratic assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, requires that any school construction be done with finances from the state’s school facility bonds, which must include doors that lock from both the inside and outside in classrooms that hold more than five people.

Democratic assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, proposed AB 1747, expanding school safety plans. This expansion includes procedures to respond to active shooters, and requires all schools to administer annual active shooter drills that guide all staff and students through safety plans. Both AB 3205 and AB 1747 passed unanimously in the assembly and are currently in the Senate Education Committee.

Construction of these fences will help make it easier to secure the campus while the panic bars give students a quick way out, if ever necessary.

“In the event of an emergency, an active shooter, something like that, we want students to be able to have the ability to leave campus,” Meskis said.