Protesting parents at a Pilsen elementary school have reached a deal with the city after a month-long standoff.
The group of mothers that has staged a 36-day sit-in at Whittier Dual Language Elementary School met with Chicago Public Schools officials Wednesday, and appear to have emerged victorious.
The district will not destroy Whittier's field house, the building the mothers have been occupying. And it will finance the construction of a library inside the school.
"Everything started because we were frustrated with them giving us the runaround," said Araceli Gonzalez, one of the long-time protesters, according to the Chicago Tribune. "We want to be heard."
CPS had planned to raze the field house at Whittier and replace it with an athletic field. The small building has a damaged roof, poor heating and is not up to code.
But parents, frustrated by the lack of services at the school, began occupying the building in mid-September. They demanded that the district instead refurbish the field house and use it as a library.
It has been a dramatic and tense month at the small school, and the even smaller building now known as "La Casita." Two weeks ago, CPS shut off the heat to the field house, supposedly in preparation for its demolition -- even as parents and children were staying in the building, with overnight temperatures falling into the 40s. Supporters brought blankets and electric heaters to keep the protesters warm.
Now, it appears that the district is conceding to most of the parents' demands. The field house will be leased to the mothers for $1 per year, to do with as they see fit. Tax-increment financing (TIF) dollars that would have been spent on the athletic field -- $1.3 million -- will instead go to fixing up La Casita. And a library will be built inside the main building at Whittier.
All is not completely resolved. Where a library will be built in the already-cramped school remains a contentious issue. And the Pilsen mothers are not leaving the field house until October 27, when the full school board votes to approve the compromise.
Still, as 163 other schools in the district remain without a library, the high-profile activism at Whittier has paid off for students and parents alike.