Why Do Chicago Students March Across the Street Every Day?

By Julie Woestehoff of PURE and co-founder of Parents Across America

Well, it’s not just to get to the other side.

Since Monday, a handful of Advanced Placement students from Chicago’s South Shore Schools of the Arts and of Technology have been marching across the street for a mere 50 minutes of class in the brand-new, otherwise empty South Shore International College Prep High School building.

Meanwhile, the rest of the students at these two small high schools are being kept in a dangerous, unhealthy building where computer wiring has been removed and books given away in preparation for a plan to move the entire student body to the new building; a plan that the district has apparently scratched.

Why?

Parents and students believe it’s because the students and their parents protested the unfair decision to bar the current South Shore students from a new facility that had been designed as a replacement for the sub-par buildings now housing the current small schools.

I’ve written about this situation before.

Under the plan the district originally presented to parents and the community in 2007, the new facility was supposed to house all the students in the current four small high schools in South Shore. Then, planning moved into the alderman’s office, parents were shut out, and suddenly the new school was going to be a selective enrollment high school, which would exclude the majority of the students attending the current South Shore schools.

Then the district planned even more humiliation for these students. Although they would be unlikely to attend the new school when it officially opened in the fall of 2011, students from the north building were going to be moved to the new facility — but only on on a temporary basis from January 31 until the end of the 2010-11 school year. Then they would be moved back in the fall into the old south building with the other two small schools.

Parents were not informed of these new plans until the last day of school before winter break. Protests erupted, and a large group of parents, teachers, students, and community members came out to oppose the plan at a CPS hearing held on a Friday night right after the winter break.

So, the district changed course again and decided not to send all the students over to the new building, even though staff had already been directed to dismantle computer wiring and donate books from the north building, and students had already been assigned lockers in the new building.

Now they send only a handful of AP students to the new building for one class (perhaps an effort to comply with municipal occupancy requirements?).

Meanwhile, the parents have gotten fed up with the terrible conditions in a building that was no longer supposed to hold students. Photos show what parent April Whitaker describes:

This is mold. This is more mold, peeling LEAD paint, and exposed asbestos. Several broken toilets and sinks. Rats in classrooms. Toilets w/o doors & broken lights. This is an opening in the ceiling where rain & snow come into 8 classrooms. Some days we have no heat. That’s why we were promised a new school bldg since 2007. This is why we’re angry.

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