Revision Street: Voices from the Whittier Elementary School Field House -- Nancy Galan, 14

October 18, 2010

It's been about a week and a half since we last visited Whittier Dual Language Elementary School, and much has changed since then. Certainly, even more has changed since they took over the field house 34 days ago. Thirty four! Over a month. With no rest, and no resolution.

But last week, elected officials met with Ron Huberman and asked him to sign a letter from the Whittier parents to end the sit-in and start renovations and construction of a new library. Huberman was expected to sign the letter by this past Friday, but he still had not by Sunday evening. So this morning, parents gathered at Chicago Public Schools main office in the loop to demand he meet the following demands:

1. Parents are to continue to have management and access to La Casita.

2. Alderman Solis will work in collaboration with our State, Municipal, and Federal elected officials and the Chicago Public Schools to ensure the necessary repairs to La Casita and the continued use of La Casita for parent programming and a well-supplied and fully funded library. Furthermore, we will work in collaboration with Alderman Solis to secure state and municipal funding (TIF funds) to financially support La Casita.

3. We request a building assessment to be made after repairs to La Casita are completed based on the recommendations made by the parents' engineer. Additionally, CPS shall provide all needed permits to begin in order to repair La Casita.

Those, at least, are the headlines. Behind the scenes, life continues at Whittier much as it has for the last 33 days. There are parents in the field house and kids happily rabble-rousing on the playground. Nancy's there, but she prefers to play quietly.

Like Monica, Nancy is a little shy. She wears glasses, but has a staunch aura of primness. She's neat, and wearing a button down sweater. These things are so charming in a 14-year-old girls. Like tiny librarians.

I graduated from Whittier. My little sister comes to Whittier and I'm really supporting them. I think it's unfair that they want to demolish the field house. The kids here need a library. Because when I was here, I had to go to like to Rudy Lozano on 18th Street for a book and, I mean, you couldn't find the books you wanted to. So it will benefit a lot of kids. The kids could come do homework here or um, they could just find books easy, more easier.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A psychologist. Because you understand people. Like you get to understand them better before judging them.

And so what do you think about the people who are taking over the field house here?

Well, I'm really mad because um, they are CPS and they should care about the education and they should care more about books instead of a green field so that the kid could do sports and stuff. Because I think that reading is more important.

How long have you been here?

Yeah, I've come here after school, yeah. Like, um, I come here with my mom and my sister. And I mean, I'm just helping. Some people are in charge of the food. Others are making posters and stuff. And some are here just to support. It's kinda fun because the friends get together. We play outside on the playground. I mean it's kinda scary, especially when the police come. Yeah, it's kinda scary.

The police came a few days after the families began to occupy the field house and surrounded the whole block, right as school let out.

Were you here when the police came?

Yeah, I came after school that day. The whole street was like, no one could get in or no one could get out. We had to pick up the kids on the other side of the school. So it was like a big chaos.

Yeah, so what did the police say?

Um, nothing. They just put signs outside the field house. Saying that you couldn't come in. And the people who were here couldn't go out or the people couldn't come in. My mom was here in the field house like for the whole morning, so I came here to pick up my sister, went home, and then I came back like later on when the police were gone.

What's the food been like?

Well it's like any food, like any fast food, or any food I would eat anywhere. Right now we're not judging what kind of food. We're not like, Oh, We want this, and We want that. We just get used to what we have.

Is this the hardest thing you've ever done?

Yes. Yeah.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say?

Yeah, well, that I hope that CPS really understands that the kids really need a library and that they do make it.