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CHICAGO—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 a Fieldhouse on the school’s play lot. Neither the school staff 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 (pictures below).

CPS demolished the Whittier Fieldhouse—a.k.a. “La Casita”—under the guise of safety, 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.”

La Casita was the focus a prolonged 43-day sit-in by community residents in 2011 when then-CEO of Chicago Public Schools Ron Huberman attempted to demolish the community center.

Open fuse box

Photo of an open fuse box on the Whittier playground

Electric parts on playlot floor

Photo of electrical parts strewn on the Whittier playground

Open wires and sharp pipe

Photo of open wires and a pipe left sharp and open on the ground of the Whittier playground

Hanging wires

Photo of electrical wires hanging out over the fence at Whittier's playground

Rocks and gravel on playlot

Photo of rocks and gravel where the Whittier playlot once stood

Photo of covered fencing around the Whittier playlot