Whittier parents plan to meet today with CPS officials

Tribune reporter

Parents staging a sit-in at Whittier Elementary School say they plan to meet with CPS officials today.

The parents, who initially sat in last fall to prevent demolition of a field house near the school and demand a library for the students, now say they don’t want CPS to build a library inside the school, and prevented construction crews from working two days last week. They want CPS to build the library in the field house.

The parents also said they received a letter from CPS saying that construction crews must resume work by Tuesday or the project at the Pilsen school will not be done this summer.

On Friday, several dozen protesters forced a delay on the project's start for a second consecutive day.

About 40 parents and community activists stood near the school while the crews arrived to resume the project that began Tuesday. Shortly after they arrived Friday morning, crews left the site, deciding against a confrontation, a Chicago Public Schools official said.

"All we want is for (schools CEO Jean-Claude) Brizard to sit down and talk to us,"  Gema Gaete, a member of the Whittier Parents Committee, said at the time.

This morning, the group said it hoped that Brizard would be among the CPS officials at today's meeting.

Last fall, the group staged a 36-day sit-in to demand a school library and to stop CPS officials from tearing down the field house, garnering national attention.

CPS agreed to keep the field house and lease it to the parent group for $1 a year. The protesters now oppose the district's plan to use classroom space at Whittier for a library, arguing that effort would take away precious learning space inside the overcrowded school.

District spokeswoman Becky Carroll has said the library project will not affect special education or any other programs at the school, but the protests  have hampered the library's construction schedule.

"If we are not able to gain access to the building, at some point we will pass the construction deadline that will allow us to complete the library by the time the school year starts," she said.

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