Nonprofit to raise funds for arson-damaged Caroline Wenzel playground

Sacramento City Unified School District’s nonprofit foundation is kicking off a fundraising campaign to cover the costs of replacing two playground structures damaged by arson fires earlier this summer.

Towards the end of last month, Sacramento Fire Department in conjunction with the Sacramento Police Department arrested a suspect in the crimes. Although SCUSD is moving swiftly to replace the structures, both schools opened Sept. 3 without playground structures.

Sacramento Unified Education Foundation, SCUSD’s official nonprofit fundraising organization, is seeking donations to help offset the district’s costs associated with playground structure fires at Caroline Wenzel Elementary School and John Sloat Elementary School. Both structures were badly damaged and removed for safety reasons.

The district’s insurance deductible is $25,000 for each incident. Without donations, that $50,000 will come out of the general fund budget, further hampering the district’s work to rebound from recessionary budget cuts. Community members can donate to the Sacramento Unified Education Foundation by visiting the organization’s Facebook page – www.facebook.com/SCUSDfoundation.

The group received a total of $4,000 in donations and pledges on the first day of school:
$1,000 from City Councilman Steve Cohn on behalf of Rebuild McKinley – the group that raised money to fund construction of a new playground at McKinley Park following an arson fire there on July 28, 2012; $1,000 from SCUSD Board of Education Vice President Darrel Woo; $1,000 from City Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell; and, $1,000 from Caroline Wenzel’s PTA.

“The loss of these structures with the first day of school just around the corner is heartbreaking to all of us,” said SCUSD Superintendent Jonathan Raymond. “Our team is doing everything they can to fix this crisis but we need help from the community.”

On July 31, a neighbor of John Sloat Elementary School reported to Sacramento Fire Department that the playground structure was on fire. The extent of damage caused by the blaze required removal of the entire structure. Fire officials later confirmed that the fire was deliberately set.

The following night, on August 1, the playground structure at Caroline Wenzel Elementary School in the Pocket neighborhood was set ablaze. Although the damage was not as extensive as that of the John Sloat incident, the structure was torn down for safety reasons.