Westmount’s Roslyn Elementary principal, Nick Katalifos, worked hard on the school’s $800,000 outdoor renovation project.
“We are very proud, very proud and very excited about it,” he said.
A big priority was erecting a new, galvanized steel fence around the entire school. At six feet tall, the fence now meets school board code requirements, unlike the former one, which was only four feet tall.
“It must have been 30 or 40 years old,” Katalifos said. “It was rusted, there were holes in it, there were no gates. Quite frankly it was a major security concern.”
But the school has come under fire from some local residents, who complain the new fence is much too big, and too ugly for the area.
“It doesn’t look beautiful at all,” Jeanne-Marie Lynn, a Roslyn Avenue resident, said. “Neither for the kids, nor for ourselves, the residents.”
“We are not too happy about it,” said resident Tina Serafin. “It’s a frost fence. It looks like more of a prison than a school.”
The school also faces trouble with the City of Westmount.
The front of Roslyn never had a fence. But the school erected one, hoping to create an outdoor garden run by the kids, who would donate the vegetables to local food banks.
They forgot to apply for a permit for that section of the fence, though, so the city says it must come down.
“In the case of Roslyn, in the way it was designed it was supposed to have a rich entrance that welcomes people to the front doors,” said Westmount councillor Philip Cutler. “Enclosing that and tightening it is not in the nature of the architecture.”
As for the rest of the fence, residents are pressuring the city to force the school to plant hedges to hide it.
“It’s pretty ugly and I don’t think it reflects what the neighbourhood looks like,” resident Serafin said. “There are certain rules for the different houses whenever you do a renovation etc. Well it seems the school does not follow the same rules.”
Roslyn Foundation board member argued what residents want will cost money. She feels some residents are out of touch with the reality of running a public school.
“I think they are just looking at things from an aesthetic perspective and they are not really thinking about the school as an institution where the most important thing is to keep children safe,” Irma Alvarez said. “If it comes from their pockets I understand but the principal has a responsibility to make good use of his resources.”
The school promises to comply with local bylaws and tear down some of the fence if necessary, and plant trees. The principal is just disappointed it’s all going to cost money he believes would be better spent on his students.