Revision Street: Voices from Whittier Field House -- Evelin Santos (III)

September 23, 2010

Compact Evelin Santos is helping the mothers in the Pilsen compound agitate for a library, which they’ve been doing now for a week and a day. Well, agitate isn’t the right word, but politely demand doesn’t sound strong enough for a nine-day occupation. And compound really isn’t the right word, either—we are, after all, in a cheerful elementary school yard, with a giant, new playground out in front. The weapons of choice are smiles and friendly greetings, and the revolutionaries shush each other if the volume of their protests threatens to interrupt their children’s education.

Next to the field house sits a container that holds overflow supplies that don’t fit into the school since the renovations were completed over the summer. These renovations are the subject of today’s post. They were a previous demand of the parents of Whittier children, and a $1.4 million budget was set aside for them. The $354,000 CPS wants to use to level la Casita and turn it into a sports field is a line item in that budget. Long-standing rumor has it, the sports field won’t even be for Whittier students, though; it’ll be used by neighboring Jesuit high school, Cristo Rey.


(photo by Sarah Jane Rhee)

 

Evelin is about to show me more pictures on her phone.

It does bring a tear to my eye, to go inside the school and see how bad conditions are in there. They did some renovations. Those renovations are some of the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. I have pictures of the renovations that they did. It’s horrible. They gave the school a new lunchroom and the whole board on the bottom that they put—it’s coming off. They didn’t even—you see how these walls are really nice and smooth?

She points to the wall behind me. The mint green paint is smooth, and the building, from the inside, certainly doesn’t betray its age.

The walls over there are just like they painted over everything. The piping has tape over it, and paint. They didn’t even fix the piping. They put a sign up that says, Lunchroom. Above it, the wall is breaking, and they just painted over it. You could put a sign up but you can’t fix that wall? That’s ridiculous. There’s a big old hole in the wall, and there’s a plastic bag in there. You couldn’t fix that hole and put a patch in there or something?

So what’s with the trailer outside?

The trailer came during the renovations to take everything out of the rooms that they were fixing, but it hasn’t gone because there’s no room to put the stuff now. The storage room that they had for those things is now the Parent Room. The storage room is not going to fit twelve people in there without any furniture. The moms are like sardines in there.

We have LSC meetings in this house, as well. In the field house. We have meetings for the parents so they can speak out and say what they think about the school, and talk about their kids’ classes. We have more than 400 kids at this school. So if you think about it, two parents—a set of parents for each child? That’s like 800 people. And that’s going to fit in that little storage room? I don’t think so.

These are some of the pictures. This is the lunchroom. You see that big old hole right there? That’s a garbage bag in that hole. And all of this—look at that. That’s the lunchroom for the kids. That’s a video of it. You can see how it’s deep, the floor too, and there’s a hole. Those are the stairs for the kids to go up after lunch.  My whole foot fits in that hole. Can you imagine a child’s foot? They’ll break an ankle right there.

This is over a million dollars worth of renovations?

Exactly. The moms are asking, What happened to the money? Our parents could have done a better job. Some of the fathers work construction, and they were appalled when they saw this. They were like, I could have done a better job with less money.

Look at the walls, they’re all crumbling and stuff, and when you go and scrape at it, the paint comes off. It’s just like they painted over everything, they didn’t even do a good job about it. It’s really, really bad. There’s holes everywhere. They didn’t even put in new outlets—look at that. It’s horrible. Yes, it’s bad. Look at the piping—that’s tape, and there’s paint over it. That’s tape! You can’t really see it that good, but there’s two different color paints. There’s two different color paints.

Evelin points to a photograph of a scraped-up wall on her cell phone.

All that was done by the construction workers, also, putting in their supplies and all that.

Wait. They damaged the wall?

Yes, and it’s still like that. These walls, two different colors. I could take the same color paint, I could do that myself, and I don’t know nothing about paint. Come on.

Mr. Huberman was not going to send his kids to come over here and be in this school, because why? Because he knows it’s not in good condition, that’s why. It’s heartbreaking.

These moms have been working hard for what they need, and what they want for their children. They’re not being funded by any other organization. We have support from volunteers and from other people that are donating things, but the mothers have done everything on their own, and by themselves.