CHICAGO (CBS)– The playground outside William P. Nixon Elementary School has been left charred and destroyed after it was set on fire recently – prompting dozens of parents to show up at a meeting in outrage.
As CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported Thursday, the Chicago Public Schools system now commits to fixing the playground after a call to action.READ MORE: Teen, 15, Shot In The Loop
For some parents, the commitment to rebuild the playground – which police believe someone deliberately burned to the ground – is not enough.
On Thursday, kids at Nixon Elementary, 2121 N. Keeler Ave., had recess on the concrete. Only inches from them, their old playground has been turned into a crime scene.
“It’s been really sad to see the faces of the kids coming to school, seeing their park,” said one mother named Melody.
Melody’s kids come to the play area often. It was Tuesday night when the space turned into this inferno that police believe someone started on purpose.
The Chicago Teachers Union posted a video of the flames shooting from the playground.
Children at Nixon and in the community no longer have a playground. This is truly awful. The playground was just rebuilt in 2018. https://t.co/YJhWL06Xdb
— ChicagoTeachersUnion (@CTULocal1) November 3, 2021
On Thursday, police detectives were on the scene.
“Very much hoping that it’s rebuilt soon; that the kids don’t have to see this day after day,” Melody said. “It was devastating.”
On Thursday afternoon, parents, members of the Hermosa community, and Chicago Public Schools leaders attended a meeting at the school. Reporters were not allowed inside.
But a parent provided video showing residents and police get up to talk concerns.
Collin Martinez was there. He helped raise $225,000 and build the playground in 2018 – just three years ago. It was a big investment in an underserved area.READ MORE: CTA Bus Driver Beaten Near Millennium Park
But this time – he was looking for CPS to help rebuild.
“Last time, they contributed next to nothing – so we’ll see,” Martinez said.
The school district told CBS 2 in a statement it will work with Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) to build back. Ramirez-Rosa said the fire is a huge deal, because the playground is one of Hermosa’s only public recreational spaces.
“The main thing we wanted out of today’s meeting was a clear commitment from CPS that this was going to get built ASAP,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “We got that commitment today.”
Ramirez-Rosa said earlier that he was committing $100,000 to a new playground and calling on CPS to cover the rest. Just how much money the school district will give was unclear late Thursday.
Parents say the fire is just one of the many safety issues at the school – which also include windows busted out and vandalism at the playground in the past few months.
They want to see dollars go toward more security.
“It goes beyond the playground,” said parent Dulce Herrera, “and if they don’t address people who live around here properly, that’s not going to stop.”
Ald. Ramirez-Rosa said police are looking into if the former crimes are connected to this. He hopes to have the playground up again by next spring.
Nixon Elementary is not the only school that has seen its playground damaged to the point where it had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The same happened at William Penn Elementary School, at 1616 S. Avers Ave.
That playground was not set on fire, but it was damaged to the point of being dangerous while kids were still playing on it. The slide was even riddled with bullet holes.MORE NEWS: Oak Park And River Forest High School Ban On Activities Due To COVID Outbreak Sparks Outrage
CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov first reported on the problems at the Penn Elementary playground in 2019. A new playground was finally unveiled this past August, following a fight with CPS for funding.