Whittier Parents Block Library Construction

By Kim Vatis
|  Friday, Jun 24, 2011  |  Updated 10:12 PM CDT
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Parents, community activists want new library in the field house, not inside the school.

Parents, community activists want new library in the field house, not inside the school.

The protests at the Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen were back Friday, with demonstrators saying they were more frustrated than ever at Chicago Public Schools.

About 40 parents and community activists gathered at the school, at 1900 W. 23rd St., to block the construction of a library inside the school. They want it located in the field house next to the elementary school, saying it offers twice the space.

"It was never agreed up to have the library within the school," said Whittier Parents Committee organizer Gema Gaete.

Organizers contend putting the library inside the school building will take away precious space for special education classrooms.

But Becky Carroll with CPS said classrooms will simply be relocated, adding that it doesn’t make sense to put the library outside the school where students "have to walk through the snow and cold" just to read a book.

The demonstration prompted a swarm of police all around the neighborhood early Friday morning, including roadblocks at several intersections. The small protest was peaceful and police left without incident.

Construction crews did not cross the picket line and the protestors said they won’t leave until school official’s sit with them and hash this out. Their protest last fall lasted more than six weeks.

CPS said the move is delaying the timetable to get the library constructed before the school year starts.

Whittier Parents also even more skeptical of CPS now.

While a letter dated June 16 tells demonstrators the field house won’t be demolished, parents said they found an extension of a demolition permit dated in May of 2011.

"It’s going from CEO to CEO to CEO just in case," says Gaete, refering to the transition from Ron Huberman to Terry Mazany to Jean Claude Brizard.

Whittier Parents were in the middle of negotiations to keep the field house and renovate it into a library and community center when Huberman stepped down.

They said a meeting with Brizard is only fair.

"If he’s encouraging parent involvement, we are here," said Whittier Parent Lisa Angonese.

Even some Whittier Teachers are now taking a stand.

"They say they care about children but they don't if they're ignoring the parents point of view," said sixth grade teacher Gabriella Chong.

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