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Playground torched

THUNDER BAY -- Vandals may have torched Hyde Park Public School’s playground equipment, but students are trying not to let it get them down.
Hyde Park Public School principal Darren Lentz surveys the damage from an overnight fire that burned the school’s playground equipment. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY -- Vandals may have torched Hyde Park Public School’s playground equipment, but students are trying not to let it get them down.

One teacher turned it into a teaching opportunity, snapping a photo of the charred remains, passing it out and asking her Grade 1 students to write down their thoughts.

“I was so sad that the playground was on fire, and I really want to go back on the monkey bars,” wrote a student named Eleanor, who included a drawing of the equipment ablaze.

“I feel bad about the playground catching on fire. I wish this was a dream. If I knew who put the playground on fire I would talk to that person because I’m really sad that she or he burnt the playground. I feel like all those good memories are burnt up,” another youngster wrote.

“It makes me said because this is special to us,” said Declan.

“I hope we will get some new playground equipment soon,” wrote James, his thoughts, along with his classmates and others at the school of about 180, on display in the school lobby.

Grade 1 teacher Susan Lieske said she and her colleagues were shocked when they arrived at work on Friday morning to find the playground equipment fenced off and surrounded by police tape.

Still, she wanted to make the best of a bad situation for the youngsters in her class, who would be devastated to learn of the fire.

“We had a big discussion and the kids shared their feelings,” Lieske said. “It was amazing, because not only did they talk about what happened and how they felt, but immediately these six- and seven-year olds starting talking about solutions.”

One student suggested a bake sale to raise funds to replace the equipment, estimated to cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Another suggested an art show, still another, a yard sale.

“This is an important thing for them. They want their playground back. And it was really sad news for them. So they need to build a new one and they think they can help us,” Lieske said.

Hyde Park principal Darren Lentz wouldn’t speculate on what happened or who the culprits might be, but said it was devastating for the entire school community.

“We were working with fire and the Thunder Bay police. They’ve been great to work with and they were here right away. From a community perspective, it’s really sad. The kids here at Hyde have come together as a community and got their best memories of their playground. They’re devastated today. They’re kids, and it’s all about the kids,” Lentz said.

“It’s really too bad that this has happened.”

The playground was built in 1995.

Lentz said he’ll be speaking with the school’s parent council to discuss what comes next and how to rebuild.





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