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Dyett Activists Launch Hunger Strike Demanding Decision on Reopening School

By Sam Cholke | August 17, 2015 12:35pm
 Twelve people pushing for a district-run option for reopening Dyett High School have refused to eat until the plan is approved.
Twelve people pushing for a district-run option for reopening Dyett High School have refused to eat until the plan is approved.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

GRAND BOULEVARD — Twelve school activists started a hunger strike Monday morning, demanding Chicago Public Schools halt delays on determining the future of Dyett High School.

The 12 people who have vowed to subsist on only water and fluids are all supporters of a proposal to reopen Dyett, 555 E. 51st St., as district-run school over two contract school proposals also being considered by CPS.

“We’ve been pushed to the point of putting our bodies on the line to say enough is enough,” said Jitu Brown, one of the organizers of the coalition that includes the Chicago Teachers Union, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Teachers for Social Justice and other groups.

Brown and others said the hunger strike was prompted by what they characterized as a long series of delays to make a final decision on the future of Dyett since announcing in 2009 the school would be phased out in 2015.

"Chicago Public Schools is carrying out a community-driven process to select a new high-quality school for the former Dyett site," said Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for CPS. "Identifying a high-quality education option for the former Dyett site is a priority for the district, and CPS is reviewing school proposals to determine the best open enrollment, neighborhood education option for the site."

On Aug. 7, CPS delayed by another month hearings to decide between three proposals to reopen the school. The proposals now to be considered on Sept. 15 include the coalition’s plan for a district-run school with a focus on green technology and two contract school options, an arts-based school run by the Little Black Pearl and a sports- and business-geared school proposed by former Dyett Principal Charles Campbell.

At the time, CPS said it needed extra time to allow new CEO Forrest Claypool and several new board members to educate themselves on all three proposals and resolve broader budget issues.

“They just had a meeting for KIPP charter schools, so it’s not about making our kids a priority,” said Jeanette Taylor, one of those on the hunger strike and the chairwoman of the Mollison Elementary School Local School Council.

McCaffrey said the Chicago Board of Education was now expected to vote on the Dyett proposals at its September meeting, but was not immediately able to comment further.

Among the others on the hunger strike are the Rev. Robert Jones of Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, local school council members from Mollison Elementary School, Dyett and Uplift Community High School and King College Prep, and two CPS teachers.

The group planned to continue their hunger strike Monday in front of Dyett.

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