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City Hall sit-in wins concessions for Dyett High School students

Dyett High School, home to just 13 seniors, is getting a gym teacher, entry for the students through the front door and a prom, protesters said, following a sit-in of parents and supporters Tuesday night at City Hall that ended in the arrest of 11 adults.

In 2012, Dyett was approved for phasing out — one grade level at a time. As its population shrank, the remaining students have had to use the back door of the school, 555 E. 51st St. And they’ve taken gym, art and music online.

“We won some major changes as of next week” said Jitu Brown, a Bronzeville-based community activist who’s been advocating for the school. The Dyett students also will have after-school tutoring, a Life After Dyett program that includes college tours and help with college forms, and typical senior year activities such as a prom and luncheons, he said.

Mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said details still needed to be worked out but some of the group’s requests will be able to be accomodated.  

Brown said CPS also is going to send a letter to former Dyett students whom the district advised to enroll elsewhere to welcome them back to Dyett.

“We should not have to go through these lengths for our public schools,” Brown said. “We appreciate the mayor’s staff that are being responsive but we’re not satisfied until all the students’ demands are met, and most importantly, until Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Board of Education and (CPS CEO) Barbara Byrd-Bennett sign onto Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School,” a community-developed high school proposal.

The students also asked that they have a chance to participate in athletics, that their remaining on-line classes be replaced by live ones, and that their principal be replaced with one more sympathetic to their cause, Brown said.

Requests by the Sun-Times to visit the school have been denied. Before Tuesday’s 11 p.m. arrest of 11 adults on misdemeanor trespass charges, Brown said that Arnie Rivera, deputy chief of staff for education, and Ken Bennett, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, emerged to speak with the people sitting in.

“They began trying to negotiate immediately in essence to stop us from getting arrested,” he said.

So why continue to sit?

“You have to remember that we sat in for three days two years ago, and didn’t see as much as a handshake on Dyett,” Brown said. “The issues with the 13 students are important but there’s a bigger issue is that if Dyett closes (as it’s scheduled to do in June), there won’t be a neighborhood school in our area.”