CHICAGO -- It is day 11 of a hunger strike on Chicago's South Side. About a dozen parents and grandparents are starving themselves in protest of the closing of Walter H. Dyett High School.
The group says they've lived on water, juice and other fortified drinks this entire time, hoping Mayor Rahm Emanuel would notice. On Thursday, he did.
"And I would remind everybody, within a three-mile radius there 10 high schools," Emanuel said. "Within about a mile of the school, there’s King College Prep. So there’s a lot of high schools in that area and how do you talk about another one or others that are not at capacity."
"I have been arrested twice just for trying to talk to the mayor, asking for his support," said hunger striker Irene Robinson,
Emanuel closed Walter H. Dyett high school at the end of the year as part of a phaseout process. It will be shut down for a year until City Hall and the school board decides what the building should be next.
The hunger strikers say they want it to be a neighborhood school with open enrollment that future high schoolers can easily walk to from home. They say they will strike they say until they get it.
One woman was so affected during the hunger strike that she went to the hospital Monday. Another striker dropped during Wednesday's school board meeting.
While the mayor claims the city is working with passionate parents and groups to come up with a plan, those striking say no one has come to talk to them.
Fourth Ward Ald. Will Burns issued the following statement about the strike:
"Since 2011 serving as Alderman of the Fourth Ward in the City of Chicago, it has always been my passion, priority and commitment to advocate for quality, accessible, world-class education for all of our children.
The record is clear – I fought to keep Dyett High School as a quality open enrollment school since September 2011. Our office has held numerous meetings with Bronzeville community members and stakeholders to address issues and concerns, including the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett/Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO).
On August 7, 2015 the Board of Education announced they were extending the date for the Dyett RFP public hearing to September 15, 2015. Although the date change is disappointing to us all, it is important that we allow time for adequate public feedback and a thoughtful and thorough review of proposals to make the best decision for our children’s education.
As the newly appointed City Council Chairman of the Committee on Education and Child Development, I will continue to work with the community, the Chicago Board of Education and the RFP process to secure a new plan for Dyett.
I do not take the hunger strike lightly and I am sympathetic to the demonstrators. Dyett is very important to a lot of people in the community and I encourage everyone to attend the upcoming Dyett RFP Hearing on September 15, 2015.
As Fourth Ward Alderman, I will not be bullied into submitting to the special interests and scare tactics of one group. The whole community deserves the opportunity to have their opinions represented and communicate their plan in a fair and open process.
The new vision for Dyett can bring an enormous amount of excitement to the Fourth Ward and we are eager to quickly move towards a positive outcome. Failure is not an option. Dyett will be a successful open enrollment community high school.
Visit http://cps.edu/About_CPS/Departments/Pages/Dyett_RFP.aspx for information on attending the public hearing."