Whittier Elementary Fieldhouse Occupation Resumed

June 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm (Building Occupations)

From Save Our Center:

The Whittier Parent Committee had a press conference on Wednesday, June 22nd, to inform the public that the Struggle Continues. Currently, parents and allies are occupying La Casita 24/7 to prevent CPS or the Chicago Police from denying the Whittier Parent Committee access to La Casita.

Please call Alderman Danny Solis at 773-523-4100 to make sure the TIF money allocated for Whittier is used for the renovation of La Casita as he committed to. Solis stated the following during a meeting at La Casita on October 21, 2010: “…the money from this district’s [Pilsen Corridor] Tax Increment Financing that would have been used to demolish the community center will be used to renovate it.” (Hoy Newspaper)

Please stop by La Casita (1900 W. 23rd Street) if you can to volunteer for security shifts or to see what supplies are still needed.

For background info, please see the article from Radio Arte’s Zé Garcia below.

Originally posted on Radio Arte’s website:

Before 10am Wednesday morning construction workers and CPS officials arrived at Whittier Elementary School to begin construction of a new library inside the school, not to renovate the community library, La Casita. As of press time, CPS officials on the ground refused to answer questions from the community or Radio Arte’s First Voice. It is understood that CPS is planning to construct a building inside the main building of Whittier Elementary despite an agreement reached late last year to work with legislators to allocate some $364,000 in TIF dollars to renovate what is now known as La Casita Parent Youth Center and lease the space out to the Whittier Parent Committee. La Casita is a field house that sits next to Whittier and is home to a community center used as a library, and a space for ESL and immigration classes among other activities for parents and school kids. $200,000 were allocated from the Board of Education by State Representative Eddie Acevedo (D) bringing the total sum of La Casita renovation money to $564,000 dollars. The Whittier Parent Committee is currently in talks with architects from a non for profit to turn the space into an environmentally friendly green space.

Whittier Elementary first received national attention back in the Fall of 2010 as mothers of Pilsen staged a 43 day sit-in inside La Casita to prevent its demolition and promote its renovation. In essence, for the mothers and community activists of Pilsen, the issue was about being involved in the decision making process with CPS regarding the fate of their public spaces. For CPS the issue is about the $712 million deficit yet the Whittier Parent Committee has called out the fact that the $364,000 dollars they had secured for La Casita with the previous administration was originally intended for its demolition. Corresponding via email with HuffPost Chicago, a CPS spokesperson said ‘construction was actually scheduled to begin Monday, the spokesman said, but heavy rains caused a temporary delay. The plan to put the library inside the school’ “has been thoroughly vetted over the past six months, and any additional delay could ultimately cause a delay in construction and availability of the library to the students it is meant to serve.” Yet, the community contends that overcrowding is already a problem inside the building and the space inside the school where CPS plans to build the library is already being utilized by special needs students.

Text messages and Facebook updates have been circulating all day in en effort to get the word out to the community that the struggle for autonomy and democracy over Whittier continues. The latest update from the Whittier Parents’ struggle was “the police have left and the parents have re-entered La Casita. Security from CPS are still on the premises watching our activity. We are going to stay at the casita to strategize next steps and actions. We still need physical presence to show CPS and the CPD that the parents have support and wil not be intimidated. Please stay tuned for further updates. Thank you for your continued suport and solidarity” via Facebook

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