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Gate between MHS and Sandy is closed

At least for now, the gate separating McNary High School and Sandy Drive is closed during school hours. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
At least for now, the gate separating McNary High School and Sandy Drive is closed during school hours. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

A new, simple approach is being utilized to cut down on incidents with McNary High School students causing issues on Sandy Drive.

The issue, which has been ongoing for years, flared up again last spring as neighbors complained students were loitering in their neighborhood starting around 6:30 a.m. on school days and not leaving until 4 p.m.

“When we see them with the drugs, or urinating in the bushes, we call the police,” Shabri Vignery said last spring. “But by the time the police are there, they are gone and the drugs are put away. They are loitering a long time and we can’t do anything about it.”

In response to complaints, city staff put up a gate that can be closed.

“We continued to discuss on a district level if (the gate) should be open,” MHS principal John Honey said last week as the 2014-15 school year kicked off. “It became more and more evident we should close it. We sent out fliers and did phone calls to the residents there. We went up and down Sandy last week and talked to the residents. The gate has effectively been closed.”

That’s a noticeable difference from previous years.

“In the past, the gate was always open,” Honey said. “You could walk around either end. We have extended the ends to tie into the fencing. We put a gate with a lock on it. Now it’s just a fence.”

The fifth-year principal noted he has gotten some complaints from parents who used to enter school property via Sandy and drop off their children. He also pointed out the ongoing Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) construction project in front of the school on Chemawa Road could lead to the gate being opened once again.

“When they hook up the new lights, we’ll more than likely have to open Sandy for buses,” Honey said. “We can’t get 2,000 kids into the school on Lockhaven Drive, but (opening the gate at Sandy) will be a short-term thing. We don’t know when that will be yet, since we’re at the mercy of ODOT. We’ll send out information to parents when that happens. Once the construction is done, we will close the gate.”

One angle has yet to be decided in regards to the gate closure.

“We are trying to figure out if it will be closed 24/7,” Honey said. “Right now, I want to see it stay closed all the time. I mean, if there was a brick wall there, people would come in a different way. We may open it up Friday night after a football game, but then are all of the problems back on Friday night? It will be inconsistent if you do that. If it’s closed, it’s closed. That is the direction I’m leaning to at this point.”

For the first week of school, security people were camped out by the gate to tell parents and students alike it was closed.

Due to a lack of resources, the security people present last week were gone by Monday of this week.

To Honey, keeping the gate closed pays additional dividends.

“In addition to correcting the loitering and vandalism issues, we hope it also helps with attendance,” Honey said. “When the students would slip out in the past, they would tend to not come back. They would leave for lunch and then we would lose them for the final two periods in the afternoon. We hope to see an improvement in afternoon tardies and students cutting classes. Really, it’s a win-win situation.”