Tent City Goes Up to Protest School Closure

District officials voted in 2012 to phase out the school due to poor academic performance

Parents in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, upset about the pending closure of their high school, set up a tent city outside the local alderman's office on Monday morning in an effort to demand a meeting to present their proposal to revitalize the school.

The group, which planned a three-day protest, places the blame for the closure of Walter H. Dyett High School squarely on Ald. Will Burns (4th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and fear the impact the closure could have on the community.

"If Dyett closes then this neighborhood will no longer have any open enrollment neighborhood schools. We believe that the needs of children, regardless of their income bracket, should be high priorities for the school system, and it's not," said Jitu Brown, the education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

District officials said they voted in 2012 to phase out the school on the 500 block of East 51st Street due to poor academic performance. Those plans will not change despite the protest, they said.

But activists said that poor performance was due, in part, because the school had been stripped of many programs, leaving students without options for physical education or art. They also say closing the building will put students in harm's way.

"It is an area -- there are students that have been in the area and shouldn't have to leave the area to go to their high school, or shouldn't have to -- in this city where we're seeing so much gang things going on -- have to cross gang lines to go into another community," said retired teacher Minnie Jefferson.

The activists said they've collected roughly 800 signatures on a petition to keep the school open.

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