CHICAGO (CBS) — Only on CBS 2: imagine playing on a slide covered in bullet holes.
CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reports on the urgent fight to fix a Chicago playground.
At Penn Elementary School in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, parents and staff said children are playing at their own risk. And do it every day.
“You can trip and actually fall and break your leg. There are bullet holes in the slide,” said Penn parent and activist Yolanda Williams who added that it’s been like this for months.
“We should have some place to feel safe,” Williams said, adding that especially in a neighborhood often plagued with violence.
Penn’s principal, Dr. Sherryl Moore-Ollie, said the school’s preschool play lot is even worse.
“It’s extremely frustrating. Because I hear from them. They say ‘why can’t we have basketball courts,'” Moore-Ollie said.
Most students play instead in a concrete peace garden, with its patch of Astro Turf and confined, cracked space.
Penn’s security guard does his best to keep kids entertained.
“I haven’t heard anything as far as if they’re going to replace it, if they’re going to remove it. But it’s dangerous,” Moore-Ollie said.
She and parents have taken concerns to Alderman Michael Scott, Jr. (24th) and the Chicago School Board, along with an idea.
Why not make nearby vacant, city-owned lots right across the street a community/school play area?
Alderman Scott said both he and Chicago Public School officials are aware of the problems, adding a play space is desperately needed.
Scott said he’s attempting to get the city and CPS to transform another city owned vacant lot into an outdoor recreational space. Not just for Penn, but for two other North Lawndale schools as well.
Moore-Ollie only hopes.
“I think sometimes we fall through the cracks. We’re overlooked,” Moore-Ollie lamented. “Schools in North Lawndale, we don’t get enough attention. Unless we, you know, we have to sort of force that attention.”
The alderman could not give a timetable on when the play lots would be replaced or transformed.
In a statement, CPS said: “The district is committed to creating safe environments for students to engage in outdoor play activities and we work with schools to address concerns in a timely manner when we learn of equipment in need of repairs. The district is in the process of making repairs to the Penn playlot and it is evaluating the timeline for a larger playlot improvement as part of a larger construction project.”