OAKLAND -- Montclair Elementary School parents and community members met with school officials to discuss concerns about the expansion of the school on Monday at Montclair Elementary School.
Residents felt that the plans presented during the community process before the construction bear little resemblance to what was actually built.
"They knew exactly what they were going to do before they met with us," said neighbor David Brady, who contended the Oakland Unified School District did not incorporate community feedback into the school's design.
"The school looks like a penitentiary. All we need is a couple of guard posts, and it will be good," said neighbor Fraser Campbell, referring to the tall fence surrounding the school.
"I do hope that during this meeting we can mitigate the problem with the fence," David Brady said. "I was under the impression that it would be a wrought-iron fence."
Principal Nancy Bloom also thought that the school would be surrounded by a wrought-iron fence and said she was just as surprised as neighbors when the fence went up. She was told that the district standards changed during the planning and construction period. OUSD construction manager John Esposito said that while there was some discussion about a wrought-iron fence, an architectural fence was chosen.
After he complained about the fence, David Brady was told that vegetation would be planted to soften the appearance around the fence. But no irrigation has been installed.
Tim White, OUSD assistant superintendent, confirmed that there was no plan to install irrigation along the fence. However, he said he would look into possible solutions to address the community's concerns. The building's stature was much larger than it appeared on the drawings, according to some neighbors.
"I looked at the drawings, and I thought it looked good. Boy, this (referring to the actual building) is not what I saw," Bob Venning said.
Marie Brady, who has had experience reading architectural drawings, agreed.
"It is so out of character with the neighborhood. I was shocked at the overwhelming scale," she said. "We should have had a 3-D model."
Bloom explained that she made the decision not to have a 3-D model because the model would have arrived too late to make any adjustments. The yet-uncompleted roof garden is another source of concern.
The promise of a rooftop garden was a big selling point to the community, adding greenery to the neighborhood. However, the concrete wall surrounding the garden obscures the view of the garden from the street.
"The roof garden raised the height of the building by 4 feet. If we had known we wouldn't see it, we would have said, 'Don't put it in,' " school parent Anne Campbell said.
Esposito said that the garden was installed for the students and not for the community.
Other issues discussed included the noise created by the early morning garbage pickup, the brightness of the lighting at night and the destruction and removal of trees around the school.
"Moving forward, there needs to be better communication and the need to adhere to start and end times for construction," Marie Brady said. "We've lost work hours and sleep."
"The communication should be a function of the district, not the parents," said Esther Gulli, a parent at the school.
White said: "We are aware that we are doing this (construction) in your backyard. We have inconvenienced you for two years. We will work with staff to work out the issues."