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Protesters Continue Hunger Strike After CPS Announces Plans For Dyett High School

By aaroncynic in News on Sep 3, 2015 9:14PM

Activists staging a sit-in at City Hall last year to save Dyett High School. (Photo via Twitter, courtesy of @fairtrade_ervin)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools announced today that Dyett High School, located on the South Side in Bronzeville, will reopen as an open-enrollment arts school and “community innovation lab” next year. According to a press release handed out at a news conference at CPS headquarters that was announced shortly before it began this afternoon, the school is expected to serve 550 students when fully enrolled, with neighborhood residents being given the opportunity to enroll first.

The announcement comes after hundreds of demonstrators showed their support for community activists who have been on a hunger strike for 19 days last night by shutting down a public budget hearing held by the mayor.

“Our objective was to make the decision that best meets our children’s needs, and this plan creates the opportunity for a unique, world-class high school on the south side,” said CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. According to the Chicago Tribune, Claypool made the announcement alongside chief education officer Janice Jackson. “"We should see this as a win for the community,” said Jackson.

Whether or not it’s a win for the group that’s been pushing for years for a technology based, green leadership school, some who went so far as going on a hunger strike for nearly three weeks for the mayor to hear their demands is another matter. Supporters of the group, some who were among a swarm of people who staged a sit-in at City Hall earlier today where at least 15 were arrested, were not allowed in the building. According to DNAinfo, Cook County Clerk David Orr shared his support for the demonstrators at City Hall, saying that politicians complain that “People don't participate," and when they do, they’re ignored.

Catalyst Chicago reports that demonstrators outside CPS headquarters, hunger strikers and supporters say this was no compromise. “This is not right,” said Irene Robinson, who says she’ll continue her strike.

According to the Sun-Times, the strikers said that the proposal does not reflect the vision of the community. Spokesperson J. Brian Malone said in a statement that none of the leaders in the plan speak for the community:

Many of them have existing contracts with the city or have been on the payroll. The mayor has lied to us and the taxpayers of this city. This process has been a sham from the beginning and was created to simply award the school to a private operator”
Claypool said he hoped activists would view it as “a victory for the community,” but for now, it looks like the hunger strike continues.