The on-going, seemingly never-ending fight to keep Dyett High School from shutting down next year took a more pointed turn on Monday as activists and parents accused officials of planning to hand the building over to an alternative school.
Ald. Will Burns (4th Ward) would not directly answer whether there were plans to have the alternative school–or as CPS now terms it, “options” school–operated by Little Black Pearl Arts Center move into the building that sits in Washington Park. But Burns said his priority was to have an “open enrollment, neighborhood” school in the Dyett building.
Dyett was targeted in 2012 for a phase-out and has since lost students and programs. Next year, the school is slated to serve only a final class of seniors. Fewer than 40 students are likely to remain.
Members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School have been pressing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Burns to change course on Dyett. They want them to hold public hearing and support the coalition’s plan to turn Dyett into a school focused on global leadership and green technology and providing wrap-around supports for every student. Dyett would accept approximately 150 9th-grade students beginning in August 2014, adding a class of 150 until having a full roster of approximately 600 students in the 2017-18 school year.
The group has collected 700 petition signatures.
“In the absence of a vision from the district, we created a comprehensive plan that we will think will revitalize Dyett,” said Jitu Brown, National Director for Journey for Justice Alliance and education organizer for the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization. “What district wouldn’t support a community activated to improve its school?”
Thus far, the plan has not been endorsed by any officials, though the group has recently had meetings with School Board President David Vitale and Burns.
“Right now, I’m trying to work with community organizations to figure out ways to keep Dyett open,” said Burns.
However, Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School members said Burns was “aloof and unconcerned” at a meeting last week, and “did not ask any questions” following a 15-minute presentation of their proposal to improve the school.
Burns said he will not sign off on their plan because he does not think it is representative of the Bronzeville community, and is instead working with the board to determine the fate of Dyett.