Someone – or some people – keep vandalizing the playground at Makakilo Elementary School, and school staff are fed up.
The playground is a child’s sanctuary, and staff members say it’s the kids who are suffering.
“My favorite part of recess is, when we go to the playground,” smiled 6-year-old Aiden Odo.
“Today, I went on the playground, I feel happy now!” said 7-year-old Asher Vince Nihipali.
Principal Todd Fujimori says vandalism has been an ongoing problem for years, but in 2018 alone, the school filed nearly a dozen police reports for acts of vandalism.
Time and time again, the school will find graffiti, broken bottles, and broken equipment. Most recently, someone tampered with the monkey bars by removing several rings.
“The rings flew off,” said Odo.
The vandalism makes Vince Nihipali “Sad. Because that made it harder (to go on the monkey bars.)”
Though innocent students don’t understand the extent of what’s going on, teachers and staff members do.
“They keep asking us questions, and we don’t know how to answer it,” said first grade teacher Janelle Kagawa.
Honolulu firefighters put out a fire on the turf in October. Head custodian James Kimhan estimates it will cost a few hundred dollars to fix the turf. And it’s not the first time.
Pointing at patches of discolored turf in various parts of the playground, Kimhan explains “They are repairs we’ve done in the past, which are multiple. Probably at least a dozen.. The astro turf doesn’t match because they’re patches.They were fires before.”
After every act of arson the school files a police report. But it keeps happening.
School officials have resorted to bulldozing nearby trees, in hopes that neighbors can keep a watchful eye on the playground after hours.
“We’re hoping to bring awareness of what’s going on. If the community sees anything, or hears anything, call call 911. Let’s solve what’s going on. We don’t necessarily want people to get busted. We are not looking for punitive things. We’re looking for understanding, and for something like this to stop,” said Principal Todd Fujimori.
As for whoever is responsible, Makakilo Elementary has a message for you.
“Please stop. You’re affecting your community which possibly they are part of it, too. It’s affecting our kids that come here,” said Fujimori.
“What’s the message you’re trying to send them? School is supposed to be a place to come and learn, not have to look at stuff like this every day,” added Kimhan.