On the night of Nov. 29, a vandal broke into Puerta Abierta Preschool, 933 Chicago Ave., shattering windows and scattering papers and equipment through the hallways.
Puerta Abierta, founded in 1997, is a Spanish-immersion preschool with about 50 students aged 2 through 4.
Teachers arrived at the school the morning of Nov. 30 and saw glass shards covering the inside of the school, with the windows in all three classrooms’ doors smashed out. Cardboard is now affixed to the small opening in the doors where the glass once was, according to Rita Kendrick, a board member and the parent of a student at Puerta Abierta. Kendrick was at the school the morning after the break-in.
Kendrick said the classrooms had been left in disarray with papers thrown everywhere and teaching equipment tossed into the hallway and other rooms. The vandal also took hammers to the file cabinets in the administration office in an attempt to break them open, she said.
The Evanston Police Department was called Nov. 30 by a Puerta Abierta teacher as others were arriving at the school. Puerta Abierta was forced to cancel care that day because the building was deemed unsafe due to the damage. Staff worked all day to clean up the school in order to welcome students back Dec. 1.
Kendrick set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for Puerta Abierta, because the school’s insurance deductible is so high that its insurer will not cover the damage, she said.
“Puerta Abierta means ‘open door’ and it’s true, they don’t turn away a child no matter what their family can pay,” Kendrick said. “They have a huge population of low-income students and because of that, they already operate on very little funds. They just don’t have the extra cash for this.”
Puerta Abierta provides bilingual language development and its play-based curriculum is inspired by the “Reggio Emilia” approach to early childhood education, which is rooted in student-centered and self-guided curriculum.
Puerta Abierta is the only preschool in the city that offers complete Spanish immersion. Students are a mix of native Spanish speakers, English speakers and others.
Andrea Infante-Martinez, the assistant director of Puerta Abierta, said she was heartbroken over the break-in but thankful for the families of Puerta Abierta.
“It is sad to have seen our space where children play and learn in such destruction, but we are just glad everyone was safe and happy to have supportive families who were understanding and patient while we dealt with the issue,” Infante-Martinez said.
The Police Department told the RoundTable that the investigation of the break-in is ongoing.