Long Beach City Council members were confronted by the frustrated parents of Fremont Elementary students over new restrictions to the school’s playground, at Tuesday’s meeting.
Although the issue was not on the council’s agenda, local parents demanded that the city council address their concerns during one of the public comment portions of the meeting.
Parents near Fremont Elementary School came to address the council about new restrictions on the accessibility of the school’s playground. In late September, parents received a sheet of paper distributed by the school alerting them that the school would be restricting access to the school’s playground after hours.
“Fewer than 10 public school playgrounds are open after hours or on weekends, soon that number will be zero,” said Krista Richardson, a parent whose child attends Fremont Elementary. “There is a disturbing trend of closing public school playgrounds after hours.”
Parents were distressed to learn that the district’s safety measures would result in losing access to an important resource. Previously, the playground had accessible hours outside of school use. According to parents, this is the only public playground in their neighborhood.
Richardson was accompanied at the podium by her daughter Liv, a student at the elementary school.
“If you fence off the school, you take away all the things kids love to do,” Liv said, addressing the council from an essay she wrote. “Please don’t build a fence, build happiness instead.”
As she spoke, concerned parents held up signs bearing supportive slogans.
Tiffany Davis, another parent of a Fremont Elementary student, addressed the council.
“We are not opposed to security measures or keeping kids safe,” Davis said. “We are asking simply for a space where kids can enjoy being kids.”
She later decried the proposed closure of the playground as “a tragedy.”
Councilmember Suzie Price, who said she has been working with parents nonstop all week, addressed the parents’ concerns.
“When we say this is a school board issue, we don’t say it to kick the can,” Price said. “This is simply not in our jurisdiction.”
Nonetheless, she promised to continue to engage with the school district while recognizing and respecting the school board’s process.
Councilmember Stacy Mungo pointed out that Fremont Elementary was not the first school to face this challenge. She recommended that the affected parents work with a non-profit to raise funds to open more parks in their district.
Mayor Robert Garcia also addressed the parents and highlighted the danger schools are now facing.
“We live in different and dangerous times,” he said.
He ended his remarks by promising to look into reconvening a joint committee between the school board and city council in order to discuss the changes to the playground.
The next city council meeting will be held Oct. 15 at 5 p.m. at Long Beach City Hall.