On Sept. 12, the board of the Hollywood Citizens Association (HCA) voted 6 to 0 against selling any land to Riverside Elementary School District 96.
In July the school district offered pay $25,000 to buy a 4,725-square-foot strip of land from the HCA to build a new playground for children ages 3 to 5 and to eventually improve the existing Hollywood School playground, which is designed for children over the age 5.
The existing Hollywood School playground is on HCA land just southeast of the school. Earlier this year the school board approved a plan to build a new playground on the HCA land geared to children in the district’s early learner program, which is based at Hollywood School.
But the HCA would not allow the new playground to be built unless the school board promised to upgrade the existing playground within 12 months. The District 96 school board was unwilling to make that promise until a comprehensive study to determine playground needs at all the district’s schools is completed.
Some of HCA members who attended Monday’s meeting at the Hollywood Community House, 3534 Hollywood Ave., were reluctant to sell land to the school district because the school board does not include any Hollywood residents and feel that the Riverside residents who make up most of the school district, and school boards, don’t know much about the Hollywood community.
“I don’t think it’s in our best interests to turn over this land to people who live over there,” said HCA Vice President Jennifer Perry, gesturing toward Riverside.
Longtime HCA member Jerry Williamson, who is not a board member, used more colorful language, saying that she thought that Hollywood School had always been forgotten by the district.
“We’re an afterthought,” Williamson said. “The school district doesn’t give a fainty hoot about Hollywood School.”
During the discussion before the vote, HCA board members said that if they did sell the land they would want a guarantee from the school district that the land would be used as a playground and that groups who rent the Hollywood House could continue to use the playground.
They also wondered how the school district came up with the $25,000 offer. Some said that they should get the small strip of land of appraised, but that now seems to be a moot point since none of the board members are interested in selling.
Hollywood School PTA Vice President Kristen Didio, who served on the school district’s playground committee last year, said she believed the school board was acting in good faith and she didn’t seem to share the mistrust that others had for the school board.
“I don’t think the district is trying to do anything malicious,” Didio said at the meeting. “A win-win situation can come from working with the district on this.”
HCA President Gonzo Schexnayder said after the meeting that he hopes to continue to working with the school district to try to find a solution that both parties can live with that will result in an improved playground for Hollywood School students and for community members.
“At the end of the day, we still want a playground for the students at Hollywood,” Schexnayder said. “That’s our mission with this opportunity.”