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Few attend CPS hearing over Dyett boundaries; critics charge sabotage

Barely two dozen people showed up for a Friday night hearing called by Chicago Public Schools on its proposed boundaries for Dyett High School — and community members who fought to save the school said that was just what CPS intended.

“The emptiness of this room shows CPS’ commitment to getting public opinion,” hunger striker Joan Fadarao told the administrative law judge presiding at the hearing.

CPS plans for the school that was at the center of a 34-day hunger strike call for its boundaries to remain the same as before — which community members say only sets the Bronzeville school up for failure.

Attending the hearing at CPS headquarters in the Loop were Ald. Will Burns (4th), who spoke in support of keeping the same boundaries; members of the Coalition to Save Dyett, which waged a campaign to keep open the school targeted for closing but lost a bid to put a green technology school there; and some residents from surrounding Washington Park and Hyde Park.

Most who spoke said the boundaries — from 41st and King Drive east to Lake Michigan, south to 47th Street, west along 47th to Cottage Grove, south along Cottage Grove to 60th, west to King Drive and north to 41st Street — leave out 31 feeder elementary schools in the area.

“I want to applaud the many people in the community and the Coalition for all the hard work trying to keep this school in the community,” said Hyde Park resident Robin Kaufman. “I am happy that the board finally listened, and is claiming to want to keep the school open, but looking at these boundaries, one has to wonder what is their real intent? Do they really want it to stay open, or are they looking to give themselves an excuse to close it?”

Late Friday, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey issued this statement: “Chicago Public Schools schedules all hearings and public meetings at times and locations that encourage participation from the community. The hearing tonight was on the proposed boundaries for Dyett, which exactly match the previously established boundaries for the school. As an open-enrollment neighborhood high school with an arts program, Dyett will give preference to students from the immediate area and attract students from other communities.”

Coalition members want 75 percent of the seats reserved for students in the existing boundary; 20 percent for students in a secondary attendance area (bounded by 41st on the north, 67th on the south, the Dan Ryan Expressway on the west and Lake Shore Drive on the east); and the remaining 5 percent reserved for citywide applicants.

The current boundaries, they said, would mean most spots at the open enrollment neighborhood arts-focused school would be filled from outside the neighborhood boundaries.

“They want to appear with this hearing that they gave the community an opportunity to speak out. But it’s 6 p.m. on a Friday night. This should have been held in the community,” said Bronzeville resident Anthony Travis. “This turnout is what they wanted so they can go back and say, ‘Oh, the community didn’t care.’ But that’s not true. People went on a hunger strike, went to jail for Dyett. I got arrested twice. For them to pull this shenanigan makes no sense.”