Community group rallies to keep Walter Dyett High School open

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A group of parents, students and activists is rallying to save a South Side school slated for closure after this year.

Members of a community group demonstrated outside 4th Ward Alderman William Burns' office to fight the planned closure of Walter Dyett High School in Bronzeville. The group is trying to put pressure on him to sponsor a public hearing with Mayor Rahm Emanuel within 30 days.

The upcoming 2014-2015 school year is scheduled to be Dyett's last year, as part of Chicago Public Schools' turnaround plan. The Chicago Public Schools board voted to phase out Dyett for poor academic performance.

Rally organizers said they want Emanuel to support a plan to keep Dyett open with a new academic focus on green technology. Members of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization said if the South Side school closes, there will be no open-enrollment high school in the neighborhood.

"Bottom line is that we will not lose Dyett High School. That Dyett High School will be the center of the rejuvenation of schools in Bronzeville," said Jitu Brown, community organizer.

The group of parents, students and community activists started a two-day protest outside Ald. Burns' office Monday morning. They pitched tents near the sidewalk but were forced to take them down. Dyett is slated to be phased out next year, and the protestors worry that it will be handed over to an outside school operator.

"It's very important to keep this school open, to keep my school open because it's one of the last neighborhood schools in my community," said Kenneth Brown, Dyett student.

The coalition to revitalize Dyett says it has engaged more than 2,000 Bronzeville residents who support a new plan for the high school. Ald. Burns said that he is on board with keeping Dyett open, but he wants to see broader community involvement on the plan.

"The most important thing is to figure out what the community wants to have happen in Dyett. For me to organize a meeting with the mayor with them is to say that I endorse their plan and I want the mayor to support their plan. And I'm not in a position to say that because we haven't engaged the broader Bronzeville community," said Ald. Will Burns.

Ald. Burns says he is planning to host his own a community meeting on Dyett's future next month.

CPS said in a statement there are no plans to change Dyett's scheduled closure, which will go into effect after next school year.
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