CHICAGO (WBBM) — For the second time in less than a year, parents have begun to mount an around-the-clock sit-in at the field house adjacent to the Whittier Elementary School, in the Southwest Side Pilsen neighborhood.
The parents claim that Chicago Public Schools officials are reneging on their promise not to tear down the field house, which the parents converted last fall into a school library and community center.READ MORE: Navy Veteran Had Stroke In Costa Rica, And Now He's Stranded As Family Tries To Pay Five-Figure Medical Bills
A spokesman for the Chicago Board of Education issued a statement saying that it is simply following through on the commitment made by then-CPS CEO Ron Huberman to renovate the Whittier field house and build a new library.
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But the parents said they never agreed to a library in what has been the second-floor special education room of the school, at 1900 W. 23rd St.
Parent Gema Gaete said the second-floor space is only a fraction of the size of the field house, is not handicapped-accessible, cannot be used as a community center and would leave special education students without a classroom, if converted.
Gaete charged that workers were first sent into the school to begin prep work on the room while parents from Whittier were at this week’s Board of Education meeting, asking for a meeting on the future of the field house with new current schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard.
Thursday, the parents blocked the entrance to the playground as a trucker tried to deliver a dumpster that would have been used to cart away debris from the special education classroom.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Arctic Blast Coming Late Tuesday Night
Police were called to the scene, but Gaete said when the unionized workers saw the parents’ picket line, they left the school and erected a barrier across the entrance. She said that at that point, police left the playground.
Gaete and the school board spokesperson said that no arrests were made.
Parents occupied the field house last fall for 43 days, until they reached a compromise agreement with Huberman.
The school board statement said that there is no intent to tear down the existing field house, and that it remains rented to the parents’ group for $1 a year. The parents countered by distributing copies of a demolition permit, dated May 31, that clearly calls for removal of the field house, as well as the conversion of the classroom for library use.
The parents said they would like to meet with Brizard, and said they were “insulted” that Brizard appeared at a school a mile away Thursday but did not stop by.
School board officials contended that the field house was too dilapidated to repair, and the parents have replaced stripping it down to its pillars and rebuilding it, which they say can be done for less than the projected cost of the one-room library.MORE NEWS: View Live Radar
“No money? We got you the money,” Gaete said. “We got a free architect. We got free labor. What else do they want from us? How many more hoops do we have to jump through?”