Whittier School building demolished, protesters arrested

August 17, 2013 (CHICAGO)

There were arrests today at the scene of the demolition at Whittier Elementary School on the Southwest Side.

Parents held a vigil mourning the loss of the school's only library and calling on officials to replace it with a new one.

A pile of rubble is all that was left today of the field house at Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen.

"This fight has not ended," said parent Gema Gaete. "We will continue. We will hold them accountable. They need to answer to our children."

La Casita, as it's known to the community has been the subject of a bitter three-year struggle by parents seeking to keep it open. The single story building was used for after school programs and housed a parent-run library. The only library the school had.

"There was a library in that building with over 2,500 books donated from schools, from children," Lisa Angonese said.

Trying to prevent the demolition, parents and teachers locked arms in protest, trespassing onto the site. Ten people were arrested. Among them CPS teacher Ed Hershey, who was released from custody after more than eight hours.

"We couldn't just let them sweep it away without at least doing what we could," he said. "The school doesn't have a library and they bulldozed it. There's 160 schools that don't have a library."

Both CPS and Alderman Danny Solis say the field house was extremely deteriorated and not fit for occupancy. CPS Saturday released the renderings of what they plan to build in its place.

Alderman Solis released a statement that reads in part: "CPS has committed to adding new state of the art basketball courts, an artificial turf field, and a new play-lot for the students. I am committed to working with CPS and the Whittier community to continue improvements at Whittier."

Parents said they don't need basketball courts. What they need is a new field house. CPS's plans do not appear to include one.

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