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School district left waiting for Daybreak’s approval on fence despite safety concerns

Posted at 10:42 PM, Aug 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-15 00:42:40-04

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — Officials with the Jordan School District said they are being prevented from installing a fence around a new middle school in Daybreak, despite safety concerns, because of the master-planned community's strict rules. The issue has started a debate about a developer's ability to make safety decisions involving public schools.

Mountain Creek Middle School has not opened yet, but some parents are already concerned with the lack of a fence surrounding the school's property.

Sandy Riesgraf, a spokesperson for the Jordan School District, said Mountain Creek Middle School is the only school in the district without a perimeter fence.

"We want a fence there. We have wanted a fence there all along," Riesgraf said. "It is for safety. We get it, what parents are saying... In Daybreak, it has always been different. There's a certain look they're trying to maintain."

Riesgraf said the elementary school next to Mountain Creek Middle School has a fence that was eventually allowed due to negotiations with Daybreak. She said she believes Daybreak is hesitant to make that same exception at the new school because of a public bike trail that runs through the campus.

Cameron Jackson, a spokesperson for Daybreak Communities, said there are specific covenants regarding the master-planned community -- but those covenants do not have to do with fences at schools. Jackson said the Jordan School District's plan did not include a request for a fence at the property, therefore the district would have to submit a new proposal for the community to approve changes.

"We plan our neighborhoods very different than a typical suburb... We're very intentional about where we place schools within the community," Jackson said. "I think we're just as concerned about safety as parents are."

Riesgraf said there is currently money set aside within the district for a perimeter fence and that crews would be ready to install it as soon as possible. She disputed Jackson's characterization of the negotiation, reiterating that the Jordan School District has been repeatedly asking for permission to build a fence at the property.

"We have been in negotiations with Daybreak, but they'd have to tell you why there isn't a fence there," Riesgraf said.

Patti Wagner, whose grandchildren go to elementary school in Daybreak, said she thinks the school district should be able to make its own safety decisions.

"In four years there will be one (of my grandchildren) here at the middle school, so yeah, I’d like to see more safety measures. I think a fence would be a good place to start," Wagner said. "Potentially kids could be running out in the street and that would be dangerous."

Jackson said the existence of the public trail going through campus improves the walkability of the community. He said he does not believe the trail would necessarily prevent Daybreak from approving a perimeter fence.

"I couldn’t tell you one way or another whether or not a fence would be approved," Jackson said. "The district has never asked for a fence. They asked for a fence around the elementary school, which is there."

"Would you agree that a fence would make the school safer?" asked FOX 13 reporter Adam Herbets.

"I don’t know that. I’m not a safety expert," Jackson responded. "In my experience, most middle schools and high schools don't have fences."

Jackson said officials with the Daybreak community would be willing to meet with the school district to discuss the problem.

Stay with FOX 13 for continuing updates on this story.