CPS officials send children and teachers into asbestos site... How much are Chicago Public Schools officials are lying about dangerous conditions as Communications Department tells corporate media about Whittier play lot 'safety'?

In one of the most blatant acts of deceit and obfuscation, the Chicago Public Schools communications department is telling mainstream media outlets that it is not and has never endangered children at the Whittier Dual Language Academy by having them play at a site that is contaminated by asbestos. The Whittier School is the site of La Casita, the "Little House," which was the focus a prolonged 43-day sit-in by community residents in 2011. Then, then-CEO of Chicago Public Schools Ron Huberman attempted to demolish the community center but was blocked by the sit-in.

By the third day of school, CPS officials had not even bothered to remove open and exposed electrical wiring that was left over following the quickie demolition of La Casita two weeks earlier. Above, on August 28, the remnants of La Casita had been scraped off the surface -- except for the electrical wiring, which remained exposed. Substance photo by John Kugler.The new regime at CPS organized and executed the demolition with military precision, first blocking access to the site by erecting eight-foot chain link fences around it, and then by using Chicago police to escort demolition crews into the site, arresting anyone who tried to stop the demolition.

On the evening of August 16, 2013, the mayor’s office and Chicago Public Schools -- without prior notice or the proper permits -- sent crews to Pilsen’s Whittier Elementary to demolish the fieldhouse on the school’s play lot. Neither the school staff, parent and community leaders (the LSC), nor the Chicago Teachers Union had any prior knowledge of this demolition plan. On August 26, 2013, the CTU did a site inspection of the Whittier play lot and found that in the aftermath of demolition, extremely dangerous conditions remain.

CPS demolished the Whittier Fieldhouse—a.k.a. "La Casita"—under the guise of safety. Among other safety issues was the presence of asbestos in the aging building. But now teachers and students are forced to use the street for arrivals and dismissals instead of the playground, which has been destroyed and left in dangerous conditions. CPS is on public record regarding the reasons for demolishing the Whittier Fieldhouse were that the building was unsafe and contained asbestos.

“The district claims that one of its priorities is ensuring that students have access to a safe learning environment, but what they’ve done to the Whittier school community through the trauma of the La Casita demolition and the mess left behind has only made things worse,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “Children and their families are in harm’s way daily as they have to travel to and from school without the playground that did provide them some sense of safety.”

In a media inquiry to the Chicago Teachers Union on Wednesday August 28, 2013 it was revealed that CPS communications claims that the demolition site at Whittier School was secured and that "someone would have to jump a fence to get in" in reference to pictures documenting the dangerous conditions left by Administrator Jadine Chou who was the CPS administrator in charge of the demolition project.

Electrical wiring was also hanging from poles at the site of the demolished La Casita, while CPS official had children from Whittier Elementary School lining up for classes nearby. Substance photo by John Kugler.As can be plainly seen in the pictures from August 26, 2013 the first day of student attendance the dangerous demolition site was wide open.

Then on August 28, 2013, the day of the Board of Education meeting, CPS communications stated that Whittier demolition site was secured, but pictures show again that the dangerous site is open and being used by children as evidence by the signs signifying room numbers.

Press reports in the Chicago Sun-Times recorded the CPS mendacity in the course of these events:

[1] “Among the district’s top priorities is ensuring that our students have access to a safe and nurturing learning environment. The Field House at Whittier Elementary School has been deemed unsafe for occupancy over the last three years due to its advance state of deterioration and threat of the roof caving in,” CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in a written statement, as the Whittier community learned the crew was on site. (8/17/13, Sun-Times, Whittier Fieldhouse razed, protesters arrested)

[2] CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll maintained the safety issues necessitated the CPS team arriving at the fieldhouse at 6 p.m. Friday to begin asbestos removal and working into the night toward the demolition that began at around 9 a.m. Saturday.(8/17/13, Sun-Times, CPS skips permit in demolition of Whittier school fieldhouse)


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