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Arson Charges Pending For Two Juveniles Who Torched Burlington County School Play Set

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By Robin Rieger

DELANCO, N.J. (CBS) — Recess and after school playtime at the M. Joan Pearson Elementary School in Delanco has been somewhat subdued this week. In a word, many kindergarten thru 5th grade students are:

“Sad,” says Lauren Hoffman, a 4th grader.

That’s because one of two play-sets on school property is surrounded by yellow caution tape, instead of children after it burned Sunday afternoon.

“I find this disturbing, that someone would do this to a child’s playground. This is where they come to play together, to hangout, to socialize,” says Principal and Superintendent Barbara Behnke.

Police say arson charges are pending against two juveniles, now charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief. One is from Yardley and the other is from Delanco.

“If they made a bad choice or it is was an accident, whatever happened, it’s a shame,” says parent Tracey Hamlin.

Erin McFadden says she could see the fire from her backyard.

“It was smoke and flames on the ground, this is started going up,” says McFadden.

She says before the fire started, she saw older kids hanging out by the set.

“It just looked like they were all in a circle. I don’t know if they were smoking a cigarette or anything,” she says.

The Parent Teacher Organization says the school board and a state grant funded the equipment eight years ago that cost about $100,000. It had to meet state standards; and proud parents raised $5,000 for its installation.

“The kids loved it, they loved to stay after school and play. It was an achievement,” says Hamlin.

“It’s devastating because we don’t have funds to give them to put the playground back on,” says Parent Sue Hoffman, who along with Hamlin, serves on the Parent Teacher Organization.

All are hoping insurance covers what they’ve lost.

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