The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

CPS Begins Demolition Of Whittier Elementary Fieldhouse Overnight [UPDATE]

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 17, 2013 2:00PM

Protesters outside the fieldhouse of Whittier Elementary in 2011. (Photo credit: Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist)

Update 9:55 a.m.: Demolition crews have resumed razing the fieldhouse and protesters are being arrested at this time. We've updated our Storify to show images and reaction from the scene.

While most of us were sleeping Chicago Public Schools brought demolition crews to Whittier Elementary in Pilsen to tear down the fieldhouse known as “La Casita.”

Parents of Whittier students have staged sit-in protests and fought in recent years to keep the building from being razed in favor of installing a soccer field for nearby Cristo Rey Jesuit high school. Parents staged a 43-day sit-in protest in 2010 and reached an agreement with former CPS CEO Ron Huberman in February 2011 on a plan to rehabilitate the fieldhouse.

Huberman’s successors at the school district, Jean-Claude Brizard and Barbara Byrd-Bennett, have since sought to rescind the deal. Brizard had demolition crews sent to Whittier in June 2011 in another attempt to tear down the building, which CPS says is unsafe.

The Sun-Times received a statement from CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll that reads, “Among the district’s top priorities is ensuring that our students have access to a safe and nurturing learning environment. The Field House at Whittier Elementary School has been deemed unsafe for occupancy over the last three years due to its advance state of deterioration and threat of the roof caving in.”

As many as 200 protesters swarmed to Whittier to block progress of the demolition. Three people were arrested.

“This is a criminal and violent act on this community. They stormed in at night, while we were having an Aztec dance class, and forced everybody out,” said parent Carolina Gaete. “The three were arrested because they did not move as quickly as the police commander wanted them to. We had no notice, nothing, and the police told us they were there for demolition.”

Carroll said the fieldhouse must take immediate action “To protect the health and safety of our school community.”

Carroll added, “After the removal of this unsafe facility, CPS will replace it with a state of the art playground, artificial turf field and two basketball courts that students and members of the Whittier community can enjoy.”