With weeks to go before back-to-school season, Rideau Public School suffered vandalism late last week that might have made kindergarten less enjoyable for some youngsters.
A photo shared in online community parent groups on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023, shows a large scorch mark in the schoolyard where one playhouse stood, and the one next to is severely damaged, the plastic melted and dripping. A third playhouse seems undamaged.
Online comments indicated that the first playhouse had already been disposed of by school staff.
Principal Valerie Arsenault confirmed that the damage actually occurred late last week, saying the incident was very unfortunate. The tarmac was damaged along with some other surrounding ground coverage. She plans to have the playhouse replaced before school starts.
According to Arsenault, police were called and investigated, but unfortunately, school cameras were not online at the time of the incident. They have since been put into use.
Cat London, who works occasionally as an emergency educational assistance (EA) and early childhood educator (ECE) at the school, called the vandalism heartbreaking.
“I have a son who just finished two years of kindergarten at Rideau (and two older girls who did before)… those playhouses get used every recess and are deeply loved. It’s heartbreaking that someone would vandalize something so special to the smallest of school kids,” London said, pointing that the playhouses were of very good quality, which makes it even more unfortunate that someone chose to destroy them.
“The donated items the kindergarten yard usually receives are people’s cast-offs — tricycles that don’t run, plasma cars missing a wheel, etc. It’s really dispiriting that someone wrecked one of the quality items the kinder yard has.”
On Reddit, one commenter who goes by the handle “appropriatelyyours” stated, “The school has had some bad hits lately — before summer vacation someone broke in and robbed the place of laptops, iPads, all kinds of electronics. I never saw anything posted by police so I don’t know if they got away with it but the kids felt so sad and violated, they lost so many projects they had spent the year working on. The school is so lovely to keep the playgrounds and soccer fields open all summer for kids and adults alike to enjoy. I hope this doesn’t change that but I wouldn’t blame them if it did. I will definitely post a fundraiser if need be!”
Community spirit, though dampened, seems to remain strong, with many people offering to donate used playhouses their kids have outgrown. Others offered to replace the play structures with new ones or donate towards doing so.
Kingston Fire and Rescue were not called to respond to the torched playhouses and were unaware of the incident when contacted for comment.
Constable Ash Gutheinz, Media Relations Officer for Kingston Police, confirmed that the incident occurred sometime between 9 p.m. on August 9 and 8:00 a.m. on August 10, 2023. When Police were notified on Aug. 10, they “canvassed the area with negative results in identifying any suspects that may have been involved.”
Should anyone have any information in regards to this incident they are asked to please contact Kingston Police at 613-549-4660. Anyone with information who wishes to remain anonymous can contact the Kingston Police general number (613-549-4660 ext. 0) and request to remain anonymous.