Playground equipment at Baltimore Highlands Elementary School found destroyed

Stunned and saddened by the recent destruction of playground equipment on their school's campus, members of Baltimore Highlands Elementary School community have taken action.

Members of the second-grade class taught by Sarah Slafkosky, for example, submitted designs to Principal Brian Williams for how new equipment should look.

Parents at the school started to plan fundraising drives to replace the equipment, Williams said.

The first-year principal said he appreciated the gesture, but it would not be necessary as the county had insurance to cover the replacement costs.

Baltimore County police are continuing to investigate the incident, which took place the day after Thanksgiving.

Williams said three sliding boards were destroyed by fire and there was other structural damage.

"The kids were very sad, very disappointed at what happened," Williams said Nov. 30, discussing the students' reactions when they returned to school on Nov. 26 and saw the damage from the Nov. 23 incident.

Williams addressed those concerns during his morning announcements that Monday.

He said he sent a letter out to the community noting that the county has insurance for these situations, and he hoped to have a new playground up and ready for play as soon as possible.

"They (students) wanted to know who did it and I assured them we were working on it," he said.

The melted remains of what had once been plastic slides were still visible the morning of Nov. 29.

"We've had instances like this before, but not many, thank goodness," said Charles Herndon, a spokesman for Baltimore County Public Schools.

A similar incident on school property in the county's southwest area was reported in September 2009, when two playground slides at Relay Elementary School were set on fire.

The artificial turf on the stadium at Lansdowne High School was also marred by arson several years ago.

"It's been a number of years since we've had something like this, where playground equipment has basically been attacked," Herndon said.

Williams said he talked to several staff members who had been at Baltimore Highlands for many years, and none could remember a similar incident taking place at the school.

Herndon said a Baltimore County police officer driving by the school on Annapolis Road shortly after 11:15 p.m. on Nov. 23 discovered the equipment on fire.

"It is an active investigation," said Louise Rogers-Feher, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County police, on Dec. 3.

Herndon said he could not provide a cost for replacing the equipment.

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