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Student safety versus neighborhood access has become the battle at Fremont Elementary School.

Several parents and neighbors of the school at 4000 E. Fourth St., between Termino and Roswell avenues, came to the Oct. 8 City Council meeting asking for help to keep the playground open after school and on weekends. The playground long has been a neighborhood gathering place.

The problem is that the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education has mandated that all of the district's schools become closed campuses, with fences and locked gates. The additional security was ordered in April 2018, two months after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting that killed 17 people.

In addition to locked gates and fences, added safety features are security cameras and buzz-in main entrances. Chris Eftychiou, LBUSD public information director, said the board authorized the additional safety measure at 32 schools.

Work at 26 of those schools is complete. Fremont is one of the last six slated for the additional security measures, and is expected to be done in the next few weeks, Eftychiou said.

On Oct. 2, several Fremont parents and students addressed the LBUSD board, asking that an exception be made to continue access to that playground. No suitable park exists in the neighborhood, they noted.

Jon Meyer represents District 4, which includes Fremont Elementary. He said Tuesday that he hoped to have some options to consider after the Oct. 16 school board meeting.

"I know my colleagues and a have a genuine concern about access to playgrounds," Meyer said. "We would like to try to reach some compromise that would allow us to keep some playgrounds open."

Meyer said he is well aware of the playground's importance to the neighborhood. He said he had played summer softball there.

Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, whose district includes Fremont, told the speakers at the meeting that the city would meet with the school district about the issue. In an email announcement, she stressed that the city has no control over the property.

Her office also has reached out to Meyer, she said.

"Board member Meyer has expressed that he is supportive of the School District working to find a way to provide the necessary safety on campus while still allowing for playground access," Price's email said. "I have offered … any help that may be necessary as the School District evaluates their next steps moving forward with this issue."

Eftychiou said that district staff is assembling options for the board to consider, but the fence is scheduled to be installed in a few weeks. He said he did not have a timeline for when the item would be considered.

The board agenda for Oct. 16 did not have a specific item related to Fremont Elementary. The next regular board meeting will be on Nov. 6.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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