Whittier School Sit-In Will Block New Library
CHICAGO (WBBM) – The sit-in by parents at Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen will continue, even though it will mean no library will be built for students for the coming school year.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard set a construction deadline for the library last week, saying if pickets remained by Tuesday, the Board of Education would not attempt to build a library in the school this summer.
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The parents want a library, but say it makes no sense to place it in a room that they say is needed by special education students. In addition, although the library would be built to accommodate wheelchairs, it would be located on the second floor of a building that has neither an elevator nor a wheelchair lift.
Instead, the parents say, the fieldhouse, if rebuilt, could house a library twice as large and would be fully accessible.
The parents’ group met face-to-face with Brizard at a hastily-called meeting Monday afternoon. The meeting ended with no agreement, although the two sides have exchanged letters since.
The parents have donated architectural plans for reconstruction of the dilapidated fieldhouse, on the playground outside of the school, at 1900 W. 23rd St. They also say they have volunteer labor ready to help rebuild the fieldhouse.
The parents’ group estimate the cost of construction at $750,000, and say they have identified $560,000 through a state grant obtained by State Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) and TIF funds.
On Tuesday, parent leader Gema Gaete said the parents would be willing to undertake a fund-raising drive for the rest if it means that the fieldhouse will be the site of the library, which they also seek to continue using as a community center.
Gaete said workers made no effort to enter the school Tuesday.
“That is good news,” she said. “That shows us that there won’t be a waste of money that they. We’re looking at a long-term plan.”
The parents’ group would like the Board of Education to pay the balance through its capital budget.
In a letter to the parents, Brizard said that $150,000 had been spent on conversion of the classroom to a library.
WBBM is attempting to obtain a response from the Chicago Public Schools.