CHICAGO -- A group of residents staging a hunger strike to pressure Chicago Public Schools into reopening the former Dyett High School on the city's Southeast Side have ended their effort Saturday, according to one striker and reports on social media.
"Your body starts to deteriorate," said Jeanette Taylor-Ramann, a member of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization who helped lead the 34-day hunger strike.
After weeks without solid food, strikers were said to be placing their health at increased risk. Taylor-Ramann, for example, collapsed inside district headquarters following an appearance before the school board.
The protests had helped prompt CPS administrators in early September to take the rare step of reopening a building they elected to mothball after years of declining enrollment and academic performance. But the plans did not accommodate some of the strikers' original demands — including that the building be reopened with a curriculum focused on green technology and global leadership — so the hunger strike continued until Saturday.
"Our voice has been ignored," she said. "It's just going to continuously be a fight."
Hunger strikers and demonstrators supporting the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School's proposal took their fight to Washington to meet with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former CPS chief.
Under pressure from the hunger strike and organized protests that forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel off the stage during a public hearing, CPS announced on Sept. 3 that it would open the school next fall as an "open enrollment, arts-focused neighborhood high school."
But the district's attempt to end the debate did little to appease activists who want the city to accept their proposal to create a green technology school at Dyett.
The district's plan for Dyett did not match any of the three community proposals submitted for the building on the northern edge of Washington Park, though district and elected officials tried to position the plan as a victory for all sides.
"We hope that they will recognize that this is a win for everybody," district CEO Forrest Claypool said when the school district unveiled its plans. "It may not be the green technology global leadership academy that they supported and that they were going to run, but it is, I think, something that really represents the will of the community."
Taylor-Ramann said the group would make a more formal announcement on Monday.
"I'm not an activist, nor a protester, or a hunger striker," she said. "I am a mother who wants what's best for my children and young people in my community."
-- by Juan Perez Jr., Chicago Tribune reporter.