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Parents Determined to Replace Busted Playground at Chopin Elementary

By Darryl Holliday | September 19, 2013 10:15am
 A first-day-of-school fall and other injuries have spurred complaints about the deteriorating playground at Chopin.
Injury at Chopin Elementary Revives Call for New Playground
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HUMBOLDT PARK — A deteriorating playground at a Humboldt Park welcoming school has left several students with minor injuries this year, and parents are now calling for an overhaul of the playlot.

Chopin Elementary needs a new playground, according to Chopin Local School Council members, who gathered Tuesday night to discuss the situation.

One student suffered a bloody gash on his head after a fall on the first day of school, according to the LSC. Community members and parents have linked a series of "cuts and scrapes" kids have reported in recent months to the playground's deteriorating condition.

A series of coarse, black mats line the ground around the playlot, but some mats have been removed. Likewise, the swings have been removed from their post, and a busted wooden board covers an opening that used to house a slide, said Odaria Bilonicki, whose 6-year-old daughter enjoys the playground's monkey bars.

The playground is used by as many as 600 Chopin students and the surrounding community, parents said.

Bilonicki said her family enjoys the school playground even though her daughter attends a nearby magnet school. The ungated playground serves as more of a community park, she said, but she worries that a child might "twist her leg" or otherwise get hurt.

"I don't think it needs too much," she said. "But it needs to be resurfaced."

Brenda Ruiz, a LSC member at Chopin for two years, said she wants a new surface and a completely new park, especially since Chopin has taken in children from Lafayette Elementary, which closed in the spring.

"For years we've been trying to fix this, but now, with the merge, we've got to take care of it," she said. "I want a brand new playground."

As she watched her son and about 100 other children play in the yard after school, Ruiz said she understands getting a new park will take a lot of work. Chopin Principal Frederick Williams estimated a new park  would cost $20,000 to $30,000. 

But Ruiz said she has a few ideas to get the ball rolling, including grass-roots fundraising and the creation of a "friends of" Chopin Elementary group that could organize around the school.

Her child's former school, nearby Darwin Elementary, boasts a modern, rubberized school playground with a security gate and separate jungle gyms for pre-k and older children — exactly the sort of park Ruiz said she would like to see at Chopin.

"Ours is not like the ones in Wicker Park — those are awesome," she said. "I felt embarrassed when the mayor came here.  We have these great test scores and a great school, but our playground looks like we're in the 'hood." 

CPS did not respond to requests for comment on the playground.