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Medford schools all get fencing

Nearly all of the Medford School District's 14 elementary schools will be enclosed by fencing by the summer's end in an effort to increase safety and prevent mishaps such as the near drowning of a student last fall at Jacksonville Elementary School.

"The purpose is to keep other people off our grounds during school hours and to keep kids in," said Rich Miles, Medford schools elementary education director. "We have kids with behavioral or emotional issues that are runners. When they get upset, they run away."

Miles said the playgrounds would continue to be accessible to the public during the summer and before and after classes during the school year. Most likely, campus monitors or custodians would be responsible for locking the gates when classes begin in the morning and unlocking them when classes adjourn at the end of the day, he said. During the summer, the gates will remain unlocked, he said. At some campuses where vandalism has been a problem, playground visitors might have to walk farther around the campus to access the play area, but the playground will be open, Miles said.

Bond funds approved by voters in 2006, which are restricted by law to go toward construction projects, will pay for all of the fencing, Miles said.

Six-year-old Luke Baehne, who has autism, was found Oct. 7 unconscious and not breathing in a Medford irrigation ditch under North Fifth Street near the Jacksonville city limits after wandering away from recess at Jacksonville Elementary School. Baehne later recovered.

"Certainly the incident at Jacksonville in the fall was a catalyst for looking at the safety of the playgrounds," Miles said.

— Paris Achen