Long Beach students and parents celebrate re-opening of school playgrounds

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Students, parents and community members recently celebrated a victory at Fremont Elementary School.

"When the gates went up and we lost our playground around 150 days ago, we got together and haven't stopped since," said Fremont Elementary parent, Krista Richardson. "Today is a step, but a very happy step."

In September 2019, Fremont Elementary School parents received a letter from the school district, explaining that the elementary school would soon become a "closed campus." That meant that the beloved playground would become enclosed and the community would lose access after school hours and on the weekends.

The decision to close all 85 campuses across the school district came after concern from parents following the 2018 Parkland shooting.

"Generally, you want to have a single point of entry," said LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou in October 2019. "Safety is our primary concern and we take parents' concerns seriously."

Fremont parents and students protested and spoke at school board meetings in an attempt to preserve access to the playground after school hours and on the weekends. Recently, the district came back to them with a compromise.

"It's a pilot program opening our playground every Saturday between now and June 6 from 9AM to 3PM," said Richardson. "The play is supervised, but you can see there is plenty of free play."

Fremont is one of 15 school across LBUSD that will temporarily open through the end of the school year. In June, the school district will perform a cost analysis and evaluation of the programs before taking the next step.

The school district said the "supervised play" is staffed by school district employees and community partners. Each Saturday, the district will also provide kid-friendly programs, such as arts and crafts.

LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou said the pilot program is backed by federal Title I funding, as a number of the school playgrounds being re-opened are Title I schools with large numbers of students from high poverty households.

Below is a list of LBUSD schools included in the pilot program:

Barton Elementary School
Harte Elementary School
Holmes Elementary School
Mann Elementary School
McKinley Elementary School
Birney Elementary School
Signal Hill Elementary School
Powell K-8
Chavez Elementary School
Roosevelt Elementary School
Stevenson Elementary School
Oropeza Elementary School
Smith Elementary School
Willard Elementary School
Fremont Elementary School

Students and parents are grateful for the program, but want more access to the playground at Fremont.

"This is a great stepping stone, but it would be great for it to be open," said parent Tiffany Davis. "What's wrong with having free play with kids?"

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