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The Mechanics

Op-Ed Tue Aug 20 2013

The New "Safe" for the Chicago Public Schools

Demolition crews arrived at Whittier Elementary on Friday night to demolish the field house, also known as La Casita. The Chicago Public Schools made the decision to demolish the field house based on safety concerns. The CPS was so concerned about the safety of school children they skipped applying for a demolition permit and obtained an administrative order from the Department of Buildings, allowing for an emergency demolition.

Meanwhile, two shootings have occurred in the past month along "Safe Passage" routes. The most recent one occurred on Aug. 19 at Sheridan and Wilson, injuring five people. If these are supposed to ensure the safety of CPS students as they walk to welcoming schools on Aug. 26, how can people be confident students will be safe if shootings occur along the routes?

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Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Whittier Elementary Sat Aug 17 2013

Whittier Field House (La Casita) Demolished

As we broke in Merge, the Wittier Field House was demolished Saturday morning. The field house, which came to be known as "La Casita," developed into a vibrant community center after a parents from the community and nearby school demanded it be turned into a library and gathering place rather than demolished in 2010. The parents are now demanding a new field house.

A few photographs from the demolition follow. More information will be added as the situation evolves.

Whittier Field House (La Casita) Demolition

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David Schalliol / Comments (0)

Whittier Elementary Thu Jul 21 2011

Broken Promises Remain as Whittier Sit-in Ends

Whittier Elementary School Occupation SignsThe sit-in is over... for now.

After 25 days, Whittier Elementary School parents and activists decided to end their sit-in, which prevented construction crews from building a new library within the school — a plan that went back on a promise made by Chicago Public School officials to build at the neighboring fieldhouse.

Though construction was prevented, and activists have decided to vacate the fieldhouse, known as "La Casita," the Whittier Parent Organization plans to continue negotiations with CPS officials to ensure the library is built outside of the school, in what will be a newly remodeled fieldhouse.

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Kelsey Duckett / Comments (0)

Whittier Elementary Thu Jun 30 2011

Whittier Update: Two Stories

A story on the on-going fight over the Whittier fieldhouse (La Casita) at the Tribune relays the Chicago Public Schools line that they are being frustrated by left wing ideologues who keep changing their demands, while a piece at the RedEye (by GB contributor Yana Kunichoff) looks at the money involved as they relate to the parents' demands:

$1.4 million: allocated to Whittier by Ald. Danny Solis (25th) from the Tax Increment Financing funding.

$364,000: The money from the $1.4 million TIF fund allocated first to demolish, then renovate the field house.

$564,000: The total amount of money raised to build a new, green field house

$750: Prize money awarded to the Whittier Parents Committee by the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) for the environmentally friendly design of the proposed La Casita.

Priceless?: More than 50 people came out last Friday at 5 a.m. to block the planned construction of the library in the school building instead of the field house and halted the construction for the day.

Reminiscent of the first Mayor Daley blaming all civil disorder on "outside agitators," the Tribune article casts the Board of Education as helpless in the face of irrational leftists:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (7)

Whittier Elementary Mon Jun 27 2011

Ultimatum Delivered, Meeting Requested in Whittier Fieldhouse Fight

By Kelsey Duckett

UPDATE: At 11:15am today, Chicago Public School officials contacted the Whittier Parent Committee in response to a request sent by the committee on Sunday to meet with CPS Chief Operating Officer, Jean Claude Brizard, at 3pm.

CPS requested the group head downtown for a noon. meeting, but Evelin Santos, an organizer for the Whittier Parent Committee, said the group will not be rushing downtown for a meeting with less than 30 minutes notice.

"We are still negotiating a time and place for the meeting," she said. "But the meeting will take place today."

Brizard is expected to be present at today's meeting, along with State Senator Tony Munoz, State Representative Edward Acevedo and members of the Whittier Parent Committee.

The meeting was requested in response to the Tuesday ultimatum that was delivered to Whittier parents on Friday.

"We want to clear things up once and for all," Santos said. "We want to be heard, and we want CPS to honor its promises and begin to spend their money wisely and give this community what it worked for."

Whittier parents and community members have saved the fieldhouse, known as "La Casita" once and are prepared to continue to fight for its renovation.

"All the money that was allocated for Whittier and the fieldhouse was due to the advocacy and hardwork of the parents," she said. "It was the parents who worked to secure TIF funds and find available state funds. No money came from CPS, yet they want to tell us how to spend it. We want our voice back."

Chicago Public School officials delivered a Tuesday ultimatum to parents of Whittier Elementary students on Friday, the response from the parents and community was simple: Meet with us.

Community members and parents of students at Whittier Elementary School had a wish list entering this week, and meeting with Chicago Public School Chief Operating Officer, Jean Claude Brizard, was at the top.

The Whittier Parent Committee contacted CPS on Sunday, and asked for a 3pm meeting today at the fieldhouse, known as "La Casita." The goal is to discuss and resolve differences over plans to create a library at the school.

The request for a meeting was necessary, said Evelin Santos, an organizer for the Whittier Parent Committee.

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Kelsey Duckett / Comments (1)

Whittier Elementary Fri Jun 24 2011

Day 3 at Whittier: The Picket Line Holds

By Kelsey Duckett

The fight is on.

For the second consecutive day, parents and community activists have gathered at Whittier Elementary School to prevent construction crews from gaining access to begin construction on Chicago Public Schools plans to build a new library inside the school.

The community is outraged after CPS officials promised a discussion on the construction of the library; and 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis guaranteed, both while in office and during his re-election campaign, that TIF funds would be used for the renovation to the school's fieldhouse, known as "La Casita" and community center--which is also where the Whittier community would like the new library to be built.

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Kelsey Duckett / Comments (2)

Whittier Elementary Fri Jun 24 2011

Police Block Whittier Parent Committe March

Chicago police have set up yellow tape lines and are blocking a planned march by supporters of the Whittier Parent Committee this morning. Parents and advocates were set to picket in front of Whittier Elementary School in protest of Chicago Public School's decision to move forward on construction of a library inside the school, rather than in the fieldhouse known as "La Casita" that the parents fought to save from demolition last fall. Follow the WPC on Facebook for updates.

UPDATE: The police tape came down at around 9:45am, but police are still at the scene.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Whittier Elementary Fri Jun 24 2011

Whittier Fieldhouse Sit-in Begins; Police Called, Dumpster Repelled

By Kelsey Duckett

Sit-ins have resumed at Whittier Elementary School in the Pilsen community on Chicago's South Side after Chicago Public School officials backed out on a promise to save the school's fieldhouse known as "La Casita."

After Wednesday's monthly CPS board meeting, in which the board decided to construct the anticipated library inside the school, as opposed to having discussions with the community about building a new community center and library where the fieldhouse is located, community members and parents at Whittier Elementary School found themselves back at square one on Thursday morning when construction crews arrived with a dumpster to be placed next to the school so construction could begin.

A handful of dedicated parents and advocates spent the night at the fieldhouse on Wednesday, knowing full well if they left, their voice would be taken away. CPS officials also camped out in their cars, and community advocate Sarah Jane Rhee said the officials were "hoping we would eventually leave."

That didn't happen. And after Waste Management arrived with the dumpster, parents formed a picket line to prevent the company from gaining access. This led to a stand-off and eventually a complaint that was filed by CPS officials to the Chicago Police Department.

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Kelsey Duckett / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Wed Jun 22 2011

CPS Renews the Battle Over Whittier Elementary's Fieldhouse

By Kelsey Duckett

No deal.

Pilsen community members and parents of students at Whittier Elementary School are outraged as Chicago Public School officials have chosen not to honor a deal that would have saved the school's fieldhouse, aka "la Casita."

Whittier Elementary School Chicago - La Casita

The deal, which was reached while Mayor Daley was still in office, would have given community members and parents the chance to meet with officials to devise a plan that would suit both the needs of the students and the school.

"CPS has not been consistent with us, and have most definitely not kept their word," said Carolina Gaete, an supporter and advocate of the Whittier Parent Committee. "With the change in administration, we keep getting shuffled from one person to the next, and no one is listening or allowing us a voice."

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Kelsey Duckett / Comments (4)

Education Wed Oct 20 2010

Agreement Reached in Whittier School

The Chicago Public Schools and protesting parents who've taken over the Whittier Dual Elementary School Fieldhouse have reached an agreement to end the sit-in, Anne Elizabeth Moore reports -- but only once the parents get the agreement in writing.

CPS agreed to repolish, not demolish, as parents had been asking for 36 days straight--and for seven years before that, too. Once renovations are completed, the building will be leased back to the Whittier Parents Community Council, the recently christened organizational name of the group, for $1 per year.

An official school library was also part of the agreement, although it will be housed inside the school, and not in the field house. The field house will continue to be used as a community center.

Moore tweeted confirmation of the agreement this afternoon:

CONFIRMED: The moms will end the #Whittier sit-in when they get those CPS *promises* IN WRITING.less than a minute ago via web

We'll see how long it takes for CPS to get the agreement put in writing.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Education Fri Oct 01 2010

Whittier Field House Library Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Parents of students at the Whittier Dual Language School opened a new library in the occupied Whittier Field House on Thursday, September 30, with the help of the Chicago Underground Library and donations from as far away as Florida. The following photographs are from the ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened the library at 5pm with speeches, song, prayer and -- of course -- some reading.

Read Cinnamon Cooper's piece about the field house occupation for background information.

Putting Finishing Touches on the New Library at the Whittier Field House
Putting finishing touches on the new library.

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David Schalliol / Comments (1)

Education Tue Sep 28 2010

The Kids Who Fight For a Library

The parents of students at Whittier Dual Language School have been fighting for seven years to get a library built for the school. They learned about Tax Increment Financing (TIFs), they created petitions, they called press conferences. And 12 days ago, after finding out about a demolition order for the field house that parents call "La Casita," the parents decided occupying the field house on school property to prevent it from being torn down, was the only way they may be able to get the library they felt their children deserved. So they've spent the night in the field house to prevent it from being demolished and have started taking book donations (with a great deal of help from Chicago Underground Library) to create the library on their own.

Gapers Block published an article on September 18th and Anne Elizabeth Moore has written more than a week's worth of posts about the parents' fight to save La Casita from demolition.

Most of the attention has been focused on the parents, the sturdiness of La Casita, and the lack of response given by Chicago Public Schools to the parents. But I was curious how much the children at Whittier actually cared about having a library. Statistics show us that kids aren't reading for fun as much as they used to, kids spend more time playing video games than reading, and getting boys to read just isn't going to happen.

So with the permission from their parents, I sat down and talked with four students at Whittier Dual Language Elementary School. Their parents weren't present for the interview and seemed quite comfortable trusting me to talk with their children within eyesight, but not earshot. Most of the parents did tell their children to only talk to me about "la biblioteca." Most of the kids nodded serenely and politely before moving to the playground to talk with me. Raul rolled his eyes when his back was turned to Guadalupe, his mother, and said to me, "It's like she can read my mind sometimes! How did she know I was going to tell you all our family secrets?" He then laughed and said, "I'm just kidding with ya."

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (5)

Education Sat Sep 18 2010

Parents and Students Occupy Whittier School Fieldhouse

arms.jpg Several dozen parents and students completed the third night of an occupation of a Pilsen elementary field house Friday night, protesting the planned demolition of the allegedly dilapidated structure. The sit-in has withstood several visits by the police - at one point they threatened arrests then abruptly left after more than 100 students, parents and community members pushed past barricades to support the protesters - and scored the promise of an interview with Ron Huberman to discuss turning the field house into a library for the school.

cop2.jpg

The field house of Whittier Dual Language School, at 1900 W. 23rd St., has been used as a center for after-school programs and community meetings. According to Gema Gaete, an activists with Teachers for Social Justice and Pilsen resident, parents found out that the building was set to be demolished in November 2009, when a budget detailing the proposed spending of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money allotted to Whittier was released.

ballboy.jpg

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Mechanics / Comments (5)

Feature

Cuts to Social Safety Net, School Resources Leave CPS Bleeding Students

By Rachel Anspach / 0 Comments

For the first time since 1970, CPS enrollment has fallen below 400,000. This loss of students stems from failures by the Emanuel and Daley administrations that go beyond education policy alone. More...

Civics

The Impossible Case of the Courts and Police Reform

By Ramsin Canon / 1 Comments

A vulnerable population and common violations of Constitutional rights. It is precisely the type of scenario where courts should be able to intervene to stop abuses. Yet because of legislative inaction and Supreme Court case law, courts are paradoxically unable... More...

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Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
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Editor: Monica Reida, mr@gapersblock.com
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