Community protests track rules

Residents tell school board limiting the community's hours of use impacts them emotionally and physically.

March 10, 2011|By Joanna Clay,
  • The track at Laguna Beach High School.
The track at Laguna Beach High School. (Sharon Pacheco,…)

For as long as many can remember, the track at Laguna Beach High School has been open to the public, even during school hours. But that changed six months ago when the board of education voted to end the public use of school grounds during instructional hours, citing safety concerns.

At Tuesday's school board meeting, about 10 people spoke against the closure, citing health and emotional reasons, as well as the need for the community to congregate.

"I've relied on that track for 14 years as a part of my training," said runner Leslie Lebon. "I don't quite understand the safety issues."

Other speakers noted that the rubber track was good for their joints and that there weren't any other facilities like it in the area.

"I propose to the board that you get the item back on the agenda," Peter Navarro said. "I don't think there was enough community input."


Although the board is not required to address items that aren't on the agenda, Supt. Sherine Smith read a statement to the group regarding the Oct. 12 decision.

"The pros and cons of having public access to the track were carefully considered and ultimately, consensus was reached that student safety is our first priority," she said. "It is important for us to be proactive rather than be placed in the position of being reactive after the fact. The safety of students is our obligation and first priority."

Smith then went on to say that although public access is facing limits, it is still open during off-hours. Smith mentioned that she had spoken with other districts, such as Newport-Mesa, Irvine and Capistrano, and none of them offer public access during school hours.

Many questioned the issue of safety, wondering if there were any incidents to spark the discussion in the fall.

"Our high school is very centrally located in the community," Smith said Wednesday. "People from all over the country and all over the world come to Laguna to visit. There are many people — besides those that live next to the school — that would have access to campus. We don't want people to have inappropriate confrontations with staff and students."

Smith pointed out that once a suspicious person enters campus, they can enter restrooms and other parts of campus very easily and it's hard to keep track of them.

Ceil Sharman, 71, believes the incident is mostly affecting seniors, who are not being heard.

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