CHICAGO — An elementary school playground on the city’s Northwest Side was set ablaze, and authorities say the cause was arson.
Police said firefighters responded to William P. Nixon Public Elementary School in Hermosa around 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Block Club Chicago reports the playground was only a couple of years old. Parents had lobbied for the new play area after the previous playground’s condition injured children. Without the financial backing of Chicago Public Schools, parents raised $300,000 to build the playground.
So what happens now?
Dozens of parents within the Nixon Elementary community met with city leaders to discuss how to move forward. While police say a probe is ongoing, a Nixon Elementary parent said he worries about the reasoning behind the fire.
“This is serious,” he said. “What if [the school] would have been burned down?”
Torres is the father of two boys who attend Nixon Elementary. He revealed that his kids were devastated by the destruction.
“My 5-year-old tells me yesterday, ‘Hey Papi, the slide got burned down. I can’t slide down the slide.’ That hurts me as a father.”
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward) said Tuesday’s incident is a travesty for the community. The council member has pledged $100,000 from the aldermanic fund to help pay for a new playground. Chicago Public Schools will help finance the rest.
“I have high expectations of CPS. This has got to be a better playground than the one that the community and residents and my office came together to build in 2018,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
While parents praised the city’s help, they also wondered how higher-ups would prevent an act of arson at the playground in the future.
“I think a lot of parents are on the same page. What are we going to do with safety? What are we going to do with lighting? What are we going to do with accountability?” Torres asked.
The playground will be cleaned by CPS officials this week. In addition, a reimagining for the space is currently underway. All involved hope to have a new play area built by Spring.
“We’re not going to allow this fire to tear us apart,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “We’re going to make sure our community has the things that it needs, including public safety.”