Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman has proposed a deal to build a library at Whittier Dual Language Elementary School, and keep its fieldhouse from being bulldozed.
The deal seeks to end a weeks-long standoff that has pitted parents against CPS and drawn city-wide attention to the small Pilsen school.
The city had planned to raze the school's field house, arguing that it is structurally unsound and poorly heated. But parents at Whittier want to see the building converted to a library, which the school doesn't currently have.
On September 15 of this year, parents began occupying the building to keep it from being destroyed. They have stayed in the fieldhouse 24 hours a day ever since, even after Chicago Public Schools cut off the heat to the building during the coldest nights of the season.
During the occupation, parents have set up their own lending library in the run-down building, benefiting from over 1,000 books donated by people and institutions from around the city. It operates five days a week in the after-school hours.
Seeking to defuse the volatile situation at Whittier, CPS CEO Ron Huberman proposed a compromise to the protesting parents.
The deal: CPS would construct a library within the school's main building. And to keep the fieldhouse from being torn down, it would be leased to a nonprofit for $1; that organization would be responsible for getting it up to code.
"We believe that this proposal for the field house is a good-faith effort to continue the work we have completed on behalf of Whittier students," Huberman told the Sun-Times.
But it seems far from certain that parents will feel the same way about the arrangement. From the Tribune:
Whittier parent committee member Evelin Santos said there's no space inside the school for a new library.
"No, no and no. There's no space whatsoever. Where's the library going to fit?" Santos said.
"We don't trust them," parent protestor Caroline Gaete told WBEZ. "We don't trust them to negotiate behind us or even come up with solutions that we were never included in."
WBEZ also reports that Huberman and other CPS officials will meet with the Whittier parents on Wednesday to hash out details of the arrangement.
While Huberman is optimistic about the results of the meeting, he may once again meet stiffer resistance from the resilient Pilsenites than he had anticipated.
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