NEAR SOUTH SIDE — South Loop parents who face the prospect of their school being closed will protest CPS' plan at Saturday's Bud Billiken Parade.
And, with a paper mache Ferris wheel, they'll be pretty hard to miss.
The 12-foot-tall wheel depicting city officials — who the parents say prioritize funding Ferris wheels instead of children's futures — will be parked at roughly 41st Street and King Drive during the South Side parade, said Elisabeth Greer, chairwoman of National Teacher Academy's school council.
Academy parents debuted the Ferris wheel last week, a few months after Chicago Public Schools announced its plan to close National Teachers Academy, 55 W. Cermak Road, and convert it to a new neighborhood high school for the Near South Side.
Paper mache versions of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS Superintendent Forrest Claypool and Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) are seated in the Ferris Wheel, which calls them "TIF Tyrants" with misguided priorities. The Ferris wheel references a recent report describing how $55 million in tax increment financing (TIF) funds were secretly steered from a McCormick Place hotel project to Navy Pier as City Hall moved to close 49 public schools.
Parents in the South Loop and nearby neighborhoods have argued for a new high school for more than a decade, and CPS has said closing and converting National Teachers Academy is its only viable option given budget constraints.
"If the South Loop needed a high school so badly, the mayor should have used the $55 million he spent on Navy Pier to build it," Hannah El-Amin, a National Teachers Academy parent, said. "Why is closing our school seen as an option to deal with his financial mismanagement?"
The Ferris wheel parked outside of National Teachers Academy last week. The gravestones are for schools that were previously shuttered in 2013. [NTA parents]
Now in its 88th year, the Bud Billiken Parade is the South Side's premier parade and features performances from the South Shore Drill Team, dozens of high school marching bands and others. The march from Oakwood to Garfield boulevards is a back-to-school celebration that this year will be grand marshalled by Chance The Rapper, who has been vocal recently on CPS funding issues.
Greer said academy parents and staff will also wear the matching T-shirts they've worn to community meetings protesting CPS' plan to close their school.
Spokespeople for Dowell, Emanuel and CPS did not return messages seeking comment. Dowell issued a lengthy statement on CPS' plan last month, saying the academy conversion would create a more racially integrated school community on the Near South Side.