Chicago School Subject of Hunger Strike to Re-Open


According to Chicago Public Schools, a local high school that has been the subject of a hunger strike is set to reopen next year as an open-enrollment arts-oriented high school.

The plans for the new Dyett High School, which include building a separate community innovation lab, are said to have been made in an effort to appease the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), who have been on a 17-day hunger strike in the hopes of saving the school from closure, writes Mary Mitchell for The Chicago Sun-Times.

However, members of KOCO rejected the proposal almost as soon as it was announced late last week, arguing that the plan “does not reflect the vision of the community,” who would like to see the school converted into the Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.  Dyett is set to shut down by the 2015-16 school year.

None of the leaders proposed for the new school in the CPS compromise plan “have been invested in the process. 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,” said spokesman J. Brian Malone.

The protest over Dyett has intensified an ongoing argument between activists and the City of Chicago concerning an increasing number of school closures throughout minority neighborhoods.  The city closed almost 50 underperforming schools, including Dyett, beginning in 2013.  The Chicago Teachers Union called the move “racist” and “classist,” while a number of parents argue that the schools chosen for closure have been disproportionately located in black neighborhoods, writes Casey Quinlan for ThinkProgress.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to maintain that the closure decisions will be better for students in the long run.

“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,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement of the new school plan.

Activists argue that if Dyett were to close, local students would then be forced to travel farther to attend different schools, compete for seats in more selective public schools, or attend a charter or private school.  At the same time, they feel political leaders are not to be trusted and that the new plan does not include the community’s expressed interest in having a school that focuses on careers in green technology.