Sergio Uribe from Central Coast Fence installs the final segments of fence and gates on the San Antonio School perimeter. (Sean Roney/Staff)

LOCKWOOD — San Antonio School’s new secure perimeter fence was finished Sept. 16, having been completed by Central Coast Fence of Grover Beach.

The new fence includes gates locked to the outside except staff with keys, but which can be opened from the inside without keys for student dismissal or emergencies.

“We want to keep it safe for our kids,” said Josh Van Norman, superintendent for San Antonio Union School District. “Everybody funnels through the office.”

Van Norman said the prior perimeter fence didn’t block off the access road within the campus, meaning anyone could come up not only to classrooms, but also drive clear through the property. After concerns were brought up, the board approved the new fence project. The only door open to the public coming in from the outside is the office door, giving staff control of who arrives on campus.

The school’s recent newsletter shared the quirk that the school’s septic system had a close encounter with the fence team. They knew it would lie within the new path of the fence, and avoided drilling into it while installing the fence posts through use of an elbow joint and with the cleanup help of A&G Pumping of King City.

In addition to physical safety for when classes come back to in-person attendance, Van Norman said the district is looking into how to keep students safe from Covid-19.

“If we can come back, let’s do it, if it’s safe,” Van Norman said. “From right now moving forward, it’s distance learning.”

While in distance learning mode, Van Norman said the school has adapted to distance learning and working with parents.

“I can say that our community, like all communities, has gone through a lot,” Van Norman said. “Some of our parents have been laid off, some are working from home, but also doing childcare and teaching.” He added, “The informal polling I’m getting is people want to come back as long as we’re safe.”

Before the state order for Monterey County schools to shut down until they reach a safer level of Covid-19 infection rates, San Antonio leadership planned for reopening with spread out classrooms and sneeze guards on all desks, thanks to their overall student population being less than a larger city’s school system.

“Rather than have kids wear masks all day, you have a sneeze guard,” Van Norman said about one adaptation to instruction.

The school purchased 150 sneeze guards to install on desks and acquired two hand washing stations from A&G.

Van Norman said the district is aware of the waiver system Monterey County schools have been able to apply through since last week, but gave no indication that would be pursued in Lockwood.

“Once we come back, I want to make sure as best as we can that we have all hiccups worked out,” Van Norman said.

In lieu of community events, parents and students had an opportunity to meet their teachers in person during a meet-and-greet session before the school year began. Currently, parents and teachers can keep in contact either through email or phone. Van Norman said at first parents had many questions about doing so, but have now become familiar with the online systems and how to monitor their children’s class progress.

Most families have been able to connect to the internet, Van Norman said, after efforts by Ranch WiFi to help local families with lower rates, and assistance with hotspots by AT&T for families who lived beyond that Wi-Fi service range.

“If none of that works, we’re opening our parking lot, you can hop in and use our Wi-Fi,” Van Norman said.

Devices provided by the school were older computers, Van Norman admitted. The district ordered 50 new Chromebooks in June but hasn’t received them yet. He explained the provider said the laptops would arrive in October.

Rather than wait, Van Norman credited IT technician Eric Schell with going through broken laptops to swap and piece their working components together into functional devices. He took over the school’s auditorium in the process to evaluate and work on the computers, which Van Norman called a “Frankenstein lab” in order to have more working computers available to distribute to students.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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