Keep away: Nearby parents call the closure of the playground at Parkside Intermediate School elitist

Keep away: Nearby parents call the closure of the playground at Parkside Intermediate School elitist

San Bruno residents cry foul as Parkside Intermediate locks playground

Concerned with vandalism and dog poop, a San Bruno school now locks its playground and sports fields after school, preventing access to a spot that kids and families have enjoyed for decades.

“My kids grew up playing there when they were little,” said Debbie Gartner, who lives across the street from Parkside Intermediate School. Gartner said she often sees families wander up to the gate and then turn away.

“To have it locked up seems completely opposite of what the spirit of the community and the school system should be,” she said.

“My son and husband like to play basketball there and they locked it up,” said nearby resident Tracy Kohtz. “It’s really frustrating and it’s discriminatory and it’s driving me crazy.”

Seniors also used to use the school as a shortcut to the senior center, Kohtz said.

Parkside officials were not available for comment, but San Bruno Park School District Superintendent David Hutt said the fields were closed off to keep out vandals who have tagged school property and to end an infestation of dog feces that pose health risks to kids.

“Safety and security purposes — that’s the reason why the access has been limited,” Hutt said.

But Councilwoman Irene O’Connell said there haven’t been any recent incidents of vandalism and that if dog waste were grounds for closure, there wouldn’t be a single park open in the city.

Hutt said Parkside is sensitive to the community’s desire to use the fields and allows numerous sports teams to play there in the afternoons, a point Gartner described as “elitist.”

“You have kids who cannot afford group sports or whose parents work and can’t drive them around and they are not able to use the property,” she said.

Chuck Zelnik, longtime soccer and softball coach and a former district trustee, said closing Parkside’s fields has been a recurring debate.

An earlier plan to deal with security problems by installing surveillance cameras at district schools did not work due to lighting issues, Zelnik added.

Although Zelnik said the fence around Parkside’s fields makes it easier for the school to monitor kids’ entry and exit from campus, he said such closures are not done at newer campuses, like those at Portola and Belle Air Elementary, which enclose their core buildings and lockers. John Muir and Crestmoor Elementary also keep their fields open after school.

nkyriakou@sfexaminer.com

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