Page/Venable Fence to Come Down

There’s a six foot tall chain link fence that separates 10th and Page from Venable. Its function — and surely its original purpose — is to separate the poorer people in the former from the wealthier people in the latter. The Hope Community Center is going to ceremonially cut the thing open at a ceremony this afternoon, John Yellig writes in today’s Progress. The fence is more of a symptom than a problem, but the symbolism is terrible — it sends entirely the wrong message to people in both neighborhoods. Opening it up is a great idea.

15 thoughts on “Page/Venable Fence to Come Down”

  1. Really? The fence’s sole purpose was not to keep balls (and kids) from leaving the field or prevent tresspassing on school grounds? I can see that it has a divisive and symbolic function as well, but fences around school grounds aren’t uncommon…

  2. Why prevent trespassing on school grounds? We should encourage the use of school playgrounds and ball fields when school is out. These are great neighborhood resources that we should share, not restrict.

  3. Maybe the Friendship Court fence will come down next….wasn’t it supposed to come down with the renovations?

  4. Then there is the fence betwen Westhaven and West Main St. I think there has been some controversy over that.
    I agree that a fence that blocks convenient access for kids that attend a neighborhood school is not good. However, in this day of heightened concern about security and liability I can see why a school might not want people on the grounds after hours.

  5. As a child-safety function, it does make sense to have a boundary on the edge of the school grounds to keep kids in and random people out during school especially on sides of the school that are hard to see from the building. Having taught for several years, I do believe that having a static boundary when there are limited adults to watch kids playing is very helpful. As for after school hours, its not to keep people off the grounds, but more keep people in areas that are observable for security reasons. Sure, folks should come to use the playgrounds for play, but in the shadier corners, they also come to congregate, party, leave trash (beer bottles especially) and what-not. It cuts down on maintainance and vandalism.

    I’m not saying that folks on the 10th and Page side are responsible for such things (there are lots of student apartments on the John St side of the yard also, and I believe there is a fence on that side as well), only that that side of the Venable yard is harder to secure because it’s difficult to observe, and people who don’t want to be observed find places like that. (Where did you hang out when you were a teen?) So, it’s my guess that a fence may have been constructed for reasons similar to this, but fences are not the only way to secure places- lighting and cutting back foliage goes a long way also.

    It’s a positive step forward that the fence came down and that there is cooperation between the neighborhoods. I thought the changes made, such as the walkway that will be built should go a long way for uniting Venable families.

  6. As a child-safety function, it does make sense to have a boundary on the edge of the school grounds to keep kids in and random people out during school especially on sides of the school that are hard to see from the building.

    Good point — I hadn’t thought about little kids wandering off. It is an elementary school, after all.

  7. So, I went to Venable back in the day, and I really have to say, I think Sylvia is right: this fence (and the one between the back of the playground and the backside of homes on 12th) are more about small child safety than anything else. Please remember that Venable is an elementary school – that includes kids in preschool. There have been armies of very small kids there for ages – kids who might easily enough wander off. If the playing field and playground backed onto the “wealthy Venable neighborhood”, the fences would have been blocking that side. The revealing detail here is that the playing field road access opened onto 12th – the 10th/Page neighborhood. The same types of fences exist (or they used to) around Greenbrier Elementary school – and that neighborhood is very ‘white’.

    The fences served to keep us from having easy ways to sneak off during recess, and to keep inappropriate folks from being able to sneak onto schoolgrounds during school hours. I believe Greenbrier still has such a fence on the side facing the road in front of the school to keep small kids from running out into traffic. And yes, as a matter of fact, there were plenty of beer bottles and other trash tossed on the fields at Venable by people who used the space inappropriately – people who wandered in and accessed the field at night from whatever entrance was open – the property was not sealed off in anyway. The safety concerns were what drove this. Trvlnman is quite right: good fences make for good neighbors.

    The choice of chain link, although ugly, is utilitarian – it lasts forever, and is very effective.

    This is such a political stunt: if those fences were some kind of attempt at apartheid, then they put them in the wrong place: Venable was an integrated school – the apartheid folks were still using the Christian (segregationist) Academies – RE Lee lower school (now the Autism center), and Heritage Christian upper (now MACAA). Interesting that those have made a comeback in the form of Covenant.

  8. the apartheid folks were still using the Christian (segregationist) Academies – RE Lee lower school (now the Autism center), and Heritage Christian upper (now MACAA).

    Small historical note- The Heritage Christian upper was called “Rock Hill Academy” (Grades 6 – 12) in conjunction with “Robert E. Lee” (Grades K – 5) and were one school. After both campuses were sold sometime in the late 1970’s (78 or 79 I think) they both became collectively named Heritage Christian by the new owners. Until that sale neither “Lee” nor “Rock Hill” had a religion aspect to it’s studies or character.

  9. TrvlnMn – Yup – thanks for refreshing the details. However, both schools/campuses did have a “Christian” component before and after the sale/conversion – I had friends who attended both the lower and upper (to their displeasure – all of them were ultimately able to persuade their parents to allow them to return to the public schools); they very specifically complained about that aspect.

  10. I attended grades 1 – 4 in the late 70’s at Robert E. Lee. Ethical behavior and related ideals were emphasized and re-enforced. However until the switchover around grade 4 (78 or 79) there was no religious element to the education, not that I experienced. And by that time race was not an issue as it was when the school was founded. Instead it was more of a “could you afford the tuition.”

    I will concede though that once religion was introduced and after it became Heritage Christian the school went straight to the toilet. However my experience in public school after those years forever left a bitter aftertaste with me.

  11. So, I was one of the kids who lived up the street from RE Lee – we used your playground after hours (it had a big fence too – to keep kids off the train tracks. By the late seventies, I was moving into CHS. My age-cohort attended RE Lee in the early-mid 70s. I didn’t personally attend, so I have to go with what they said.

    The point, for my friends’ parents anyway, was that it was a Segregation “Christian” Academy. There is a lot of deep south overlap between “Christian” and “social reactionary”, which backs up onto racism. That is not to imply that Christian==racist, or that you are either. There is just a fair bit of overlap. I know my friends parents ultimately let them switch to the public schools because their peer group (our neighborhood gang) felt it was more socially appropriate to be there, and heck, it was free.

    My personal opinion based on very little of substance, is that the modern version has less to do with racial segregation (although that certainly exists from the ‘class’ perspective) and more to do with trying to avoid ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’ – which is as prevalent if not moreso among the preacher’s kids. But, in being a private institution, it’s easier to keep out ‘undesireable’ elements. In any case, I’m sure you’re right: the whole holy-roller born-again bit hadn’t really picked up steam yet; it was still very declasse.

    I was in city schools throughout that period, including Venable, and the racial disparity I saw at Venable and Walker formed the basis for the framework of my views on race, both good and bad. I wouldn’t call it a utopian ideal, that’s for sure, but I’m glad I went.

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