Parents stage sit-in to save Pilsen center

September 17, 2010 3:28:22 PM PDT
Parents and community leaders are protesting a plan to tear down a field house. Parents at Whittier Elementary in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood think the fieldhouse should be turned into a library. But officials say the structure must be demolished.

For the past few days, parents have been sleeping at the building adjacent to Whittier Elementary School on West 23rd Street.

Chicago Public Schools wants to tear down the center and replace it with a soccer field.

But some people in the community want the field house to be converted into a library.

Chicago Public Schools says officials have already met with the parents on numerous occasions and that the building is unsafe and is a danger to children.

But some parents and community activists claim it's safe and should be remodeled for a school library because the kids don't have a traditional library.

Outside, a sheet on the structure reads, "Mr. Huberman don't wreck our dream." It was scheduled for demolition last week, but that is now delayed.

"We've been ignored by Mr. Huberman already for the past few weeks. They want to spend $356 of our dollars to demolish this building. The children continue to be without a library," said Hema Gaete, community member.

"We just want a library here. That's all. There are so many things missing. There's nowhere to start. But there's $4,000 in the budget. I'm sure we could put it towards the kids and not something that's not even going to benefit them," said Michelle Palentia, parent.

Community members and parents say a report they obtained from an engineer says the building is structurally sound and that they could get it renovated as a school library for $25,000 instead of the reported $350,000-plus it may cost for demolition.

CPS says there is no official price tag on the cost, and their three engineer reports show the building is indeed unsafe/

"We're trying to determine if it is safe, and our main concern is there are small children in the building, and we'd like to make sure they're not in the building," said Monique Bond, CPS spokesperson.

CPS also says while there is not a traditional library in Whittier Elementary, there are books in classrooms and they have put $1 million in improvements into the school.

Bond also denied rumors that the land would be used for a soccer field for a nearby private school.

As for police involvement, they were present Thursday night and Friday morning.

CPS was going through a process putting up "No Trespassing" signs and giving warnings and says they're trying to resolve the situation without arrests.


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