When a small earthquake in Mexico destroyed the structural integrity of a ball wall at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in 2009, it meant the end of play for students.
“It just really became clear to us it was not safe,” said Principal Melissa Kistler.
School board President Larry Applebaum, a neighbor of the school whose daughter was in second grade at the time, assessed the damage himself.
“You could lean against the wall and you could deflect the wall about 9 inches,” he said. “The whole center support was rotted out.”
It was the same wall Applebaum played handball at as a student at Jefferson in the 1960s.
But amid districtwide budget cuts, Burbank Unified officials initially looked for parents to pitch in, even though they were already supporting the school's librarian, computer technician and music teacher.
Then came the discovery of a photo at the district's headquarters from 1966: kids lined up for the monkey bars, the wall in the background.