Charred playground to remain off-limits

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The playground at Keenooshayo Elementary School will remain off-limits to students when school starts Monday.

A portion of the playground behind the school suffered extensive damage in early August when someone set fire to it.

At one end of the post-and-deck-style structure, the plastic coating has melted away, exposing the metal substructure, leaving charred debris on the grounds and sand below.

The entire structure is surrounded by a temporary fence as school administrators await the results of an insurance claim that’s been filed. There’s no word yet when that might happen, said principal Michael Erickson.

“It’s very sad, not only for the students here at the school but also for the community because that was a playground that was fundraised for by our parent group,” he said.

The playground is three years old, he said.

“It was really something that brought the parents, the students and the staff together in terms of a shared project so there’s been a lot of ownership and pride about the playground,” Erickson said. “Parents are very sad too. I’ve received a lot of phone calls about it.”

Students will still be able to use a swing set located in another part of the field as well as another modern playground structure that’s shared with Neil M. Ross school, which is right next door, he said.

Keenooshayo parent Brandee Benedict has two daughters who will be going to the school this year. News of the playground damage was upsetting for her children, she said.

“My youngest daughter, who’s going into Grade 1, the thing that she was so excited about was getting to have recess and play at the palm tree park. The palm tree park is not going to be there so she was really upset,” Benedict said.

The fact that the playground was almost new makes the loss that much tougher, she said, since it took a lot of volunteer fundraising and work hours to make it happen.

“It’s kind of personal because it was built in part by the hands of parents and staff,” Benedict said.

She and Erickson both said that parents are ready to pitch in to get the playground fixed.

“We have such a great parent base and staff base that I know everyone’s going to work together to get the park back up and running as soon as we can,” Benedict said.

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