CPS Destroys La Casita Under Cover of Night
Pilsen community woke up on Saturday to find out its community center will be replaced with a private school’s soccer field
On Saturday morning, Chicagoans woke up to the sound of bulldozers approaching La Casita, the field house belonging to Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen. The demolition of the field house by the CPS causeduproar among members of the school community. Twitter and Instagram were bombarded by the tags #Whittier and #LaCasita. The Internet was quickly ablaze with pictures of parents and students protesting the demolition crews and security guards holding them back.
Whittier Elementary School is not any ordinary school-it is a school with an incredibly strong community and history of intensely engaged parents. In 2010, parents staged a 43-day sit-in to save the school’s field house, which was also used as a makeshift library for the students and a volunteer-run community center. At the time, the community won and the CPS agreed to keep the field house in place.
Anger over the demolition increased as new information came to light. Members of the community were outraged when they discovered that Mayor Emmanuel plans to replace the community center with a soccer field that will serve a neighboring private school, Cristo Rey.
Parents from the previous sit-in still have a letter in hand from the CPSin which it promises to renovate, not demolish, the field house. Not only did the CPS break this promise, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel ordered the demolition without even acquiring a legally required permit to do so. The CPS claims that it was within its rights to tear down the building, but many are questioning the legality of the action, pointing to the fact that the CPS felt the need to hide the demolition by holding it overnight.
Despite legal concerns and previous promises, the CPS ultimately did demolish La Casita, after which members of the Pilsen community held a vigil for their beloved community center. Without a doubt, this demolition will only increase the already extremely high tensions between Chicago school communities and the CPS.