music in the park san jose

A suspected arson over the weekend, which blackened and
destroyed playground equipment at Calaveras School, has saddened
the school community and others residents.
BY STAFF WRITERS ALICE JOY AND MICHAEL VAN CASSELL

Hollister – A suspected arson over the weekend, which blackened and destroyed playground equipment at Calaveras School, has saddened the school community and others residents.

“We were shocked. Who would do this?” said Naoko Rich, who has a child in fifth grade at Calaveras. “To burn something like this is bad. The kids love this so much.”

Officers responded to the blaze at 2:52pm Sunday, said officer Rosie Betanio, a spokeswoman for the Hollister Police Department. The fire damaged one of the elementary school’s seven large pieces of equipment in the playground area. The section, burnt beyond repair, had a small slide and monkey bars leading to another section.

The police do not have any suspects, but the incident is under investigation as an arson, Betanio said.

Calaveras does not currently have an security cameras providing surveillance on campus. The fire has raised questions of whether cameras could deter this sort of criminal activity.

Betanio said two boys playing in the soccer field near the playground told investigators they saw two other boys, described as Hispanic and between ages 14 and 16, flee the area after the fire started. Witnesses told authorities the boys were hunched over near the bottom of the slide’s stairs before the blaze began, Betanio said.

Calaveras Vice Principal Laurie Forrest said the school’s administrators were saddened by the incident.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed that this happened. It does ruin things for the school and the community,” Forrest said. “It just takes the wind out of your sails.”

Maintenance crews with the Hollister School District came Monday morning to take away parts of the remaining blackened structure and remove fencing off the area. This is when many students and parents learned of the blaze.

Regina Wittry saw a crowd gathered around the playground in the morning when she dropped off her daughter for school. She said both she and her daughter were “shocked” to see the playground.

“She was sad. She doesn’t understand it,” Wittry said.

Some of the hardest questions for educators to answer were from Calaveras students, Forrest said.

“Kids are asking, ‘Why would someone do that?’ They clearly know that this means their favorite part of the playground can’t be played on,” Forrest said.

Forrest said she and the teachers were working to dispel rumors among students and make sure the students know the school is still a safe place.

Fifth-grader Adrianna Ramirez said many of the younger kids were especially upset at the loss.

“I was sad because I used to play on that playground a lot,” said Adrianna, 10.

She particularly enjoyed the twirling wheel, which she played on frequently when she was younger.

The school is working with the Hollister School District to come up with solutions to the problem. Superintendent Ron Crates said his first priority was making sure the students still have a place to play.

“I’m just going to make sure it gets replaced,” he said. “I’m not going to let that be a vacant area.”

The cost to replace the equipment is unknown, Crates said.

Forrest said Crates had mentioned some kind of security measures when he visited the site Monday morning. She said cameras might “deter this sort of activity.”

While the board recently approved installing security cameras at several school sites in the Hollister School District, Calaveras is not one of the schools on the list to get this security measure.

Wittry said that she hopes the fire might force the district’s administrators to see that cameras should be a priority at Calaveras, too.

Investigators do not believe the arson was gang related or connected to gang graffiti found at Calaveras School last week, Betanio said. Eight different graffiti tags, associated with the Norteño street gang, were found on campus Oct. 2.

“I’m just really sad and disgusted, especially after the graffiti last week. Why this school?” Wittry said.

Betanio added that no one school in Hollister is targeted with vandalism more than the others.

“They all have their fair share,” Betanio said.

Anyone with information about the fire is encouraged to contact the Hollister Police Department at 831-636-4330.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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