Trustees of the Sebastopol Union School District penned a letter to residents concerning “a significant problem” with vandalism at school campuses and the possibility of erecting an 8-foot fence around one middle school to prevent it.

The letter, dated only as “Spring 2022,” outlines instances of fires, theft, parties, encampments, fireworks, dog waste, looting, skateboarding, trespassing and tagging, primarily at the Brook Haven School campus on Valentine Avenue.

Brook Haven has an open breezeway design that invites community but can also be described as an “attractive nuisance” to partying teenagers and others who want to be there for activities other than recreation or education.

Sebastopol School Superintendent Linda Irving and Sara Gramm, principal of Brook Haven, said that since the school is located next to a public park, it invites crossover foot traffic. Both see adding a fence as a last resort, but possibly necessary.

“We feel like maybe the community is unaware of the fact that the facility is not being used appropriately,” said Irving. “And maybe with education, we wouldn’t have to put up a fence and limit accessibility for the people that aren’t misusing it.”

“We are asking you to partner with us in how to resolve this problem. Balancing the safety of our kids with access to the public.”

Sebastopol Union School District letter to community

The trustees note on the letter than they are “committed” to allowing the community to use school facilities after hours, but that activities have made the areas unsafe and have caused damage and racked up maintenance costs.

The board said it is considering erecting an 8-foot perimeter fence at Brook Haven to enclose the campus. The district recently christened a new track and field area for soccer and softball that would now be behind the fence, as well as basketball courts and the school buildings. The tennis courts will still remain available for community use after hours, they said.

Trustees estimate the cost of the fence would run from $600,000 to $1 million and would “eliminate” things like pickup basketball games, “spontaneous” frisbee or soccer games, playing catch and jogging.

“We are asking you to partner with us in how to resolve this problem,” the letter reads. “Balancing the safety of our kids with access to the public.”

The board attached rules and guidelines for its campuses to the letter and said the areas will remain open after-hours, but that “appropriate” community use over the next few months will determine whether the campus will be enclosed or remain open to the public.

Irving and Gramm said something like a coded gate could be put in, but that would be an even bigger expense.

The SUSD Board of Trustees includes president Deborah Dremel, Elizabeth Smith, Olivia Leon, Joe Pogar and Myriah Volk.

Katy St. Clair, Bay City News

Katy St. Clair got her start in journalism by working in the classifieds department at the East Bay Express during the height of alt weeklies, then sweet talked her way into becoming staff writer, submissions editor, and music editor. She has been a columnist in the East Bay Express, SF Weekly, and the San Francisco Examiner. Starting in 2015, she begrudgingly scaled the inverted pyramid at dailies such as the Vallejo Times-Herald, The Vacaville Reporter, and the Daily Republic. She has her own independent news site and blog that covers the delightfully dysfunctional town of Vallejo, California, where she also collaborates with the investigative team at Open Vallejo. A passionate advocate for people with developmental disabilities, she serves on both the Board of the Arc of Solano and the Arc of California. She lives in Vallejo.