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$70,000 school playground burns

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Arson investigators are working to determine who or what started a fire that burned a playground for special need students at J.L. Francis Elementary in Richmond on Sunday. The playground cost around $70,000 to build, school officials said.

Richmond Fire Capt. William Martin said investigators could not find any mechanical, electrical, or natural causes to the fire. He said neighbors saw a group of kids in and around the playground about time the fire started noon Sunday.

Martin asked anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.

“It’s a shame. I hate to see the kids have to go through a year without being able to use this,” Richmond Public Schools project coordinator Morris Green said. Green, who helped build the playground last November, said he was heartbroken over the damage.

Green said this is the third time he can remember fire has damaged a handicapped-accessible Richmond school playground.

“We have to look beyond the surface,” Francis Elementary Principal Daisy Greene said. “It has happened in Richmond before. We shouldn’t just push it to the side. Dig a little deeper. Find out what’s going on.”

The fire burned so close to the school building, it damaged two windows and caused the paint to bubble.

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