Ogden city, school district put up fence separating students and homeless adults

Monday , March 20, 2017 - 5:00 AM7 comments

MARK SAAL, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — The city and Ogden School District are putting the finishing touches on a chain-link fence that will keep schoolchildren and homeless adults separated.

Last October, Ogden City and Ogden School District were wrestling with how to deal with an increase in the number of homeless individuals around Odyssey Elementary School, at 375 Goddard St.

Back in June 2015, when Lantern House — formerly St. Anne’s Center — opened its greatly expanded homeless shelter and soup kitchen at 269 W. 33rd St., educators say the area around the school saw an “immediate impact.” There were reports of drug addicts passed out in school entryways, transients panhandling around the school and homeless wandering into the building looking for restrooms.

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Last fall, signs were posted around the school’s outdoor play area that read, “No entry by unauthorized persons during school hours. Violators will be prosecuted.” The signs were erected as a temporary fix until a more permanent solution could be devised.

That permanent solution is now being implemented.

RELATED: Problems with homeless vexing Ogden elementary school

Mark Johnson, chief administrative officer for Ogden, said the city and the school district decided a fence would be the best fix to the problem.

“Fencing was agreed on to create a little bit of a barrier, so kids could go out and play without disruption,” Johnson said. “Then, after school, they open the gates to allow the community to use the area.”

School officials are responsible to secure and open the gates each day.

RELATED: Excitement abounds at Lantern House open house

On Dec. 19, workers began installing a chain-link fence around a three-quarter-acre to one-acre area near the school, including the playground and ball field. Bad weather delayed completion, but by the end of 2016 the fence was secure and operational, according to Jay Lowder, director of public services for Ogden City.

Recently, workers briefly took down the chain-link fencing to install a concrete mow strip at the base of the fence.

“The mow strip was to keep mowing maintenance down,” Lowder said. “What you’re seeing now is they’re re-stretching the fence fabric.”

Lowder said the entire project should be completed by early next week.

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The project involved about 773 linear feet of fencing. Officials say the city and school district are splitting the total cost of the fence, which came in just under $24,000.

Johnson said the city has also increased law enforcement presence at Jefferson Park, located next to Odyssey Elementary.

“Police have done a lot more work to make sure we haven’t had any incidents,” Johnson said.

Lowder said the fencing will allow school officials to control access points to the children’s play area. During school hours, the gates will be locked to keep people from entering the park area closest to the elementary. After school, the gates will be unlocked to allow public access.

“For the situation and the safety of the kids, I think this is about the only thing we could do,” Lowder said. “It’s the cheapest solution that’s fully functional.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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