Harper and ACE Tech students stage sit in after being shut out by CPS Board

 
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Students from Harper High School and ACE Technical Charter High attended the CPS Board meeting on Dec. 6 to speak about pending proposals to close these schools.

However, due to overflow, they were denied entrance into the public meeting. Advance registration to speak at and observe the meeting opened on Monday morning, but reached maximum capacity minutes after opening.

Students and parents staged a sit in and started protesting using chants like: “Let us in! Let them in!” and “Don’t close these schools!”

They were angered that the students, who had taken time from their school day to attend this meeting, were not being allowed to voice their opinions to the Board.

Jasmine Curtis, a Lindblom Math and Science Academy student, spoke at a press conference prior to the Board meeting and expressed solidarity with her peers.

“They say they want to hear our voices, yet they make us sit in silence and watch,” she said, addressing the crowd.

Harper senior Ashley Rodriguez recollected how hard it was seeing students she had grown up with have to leave the school they were raised in. She questioned the Board’s lack of funding for schools like Harper, when the city is continuously spending money on other projects.

Harper is one of four Englewood neighborhood schools that is under threat of being closed down as a result of proposed budget cuts and under-enrollment. These would be replaced by a single high school facility set to open in 2019.

 

During the board meeting, Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th Ward, came out to address the students, thanking them for being present and vocal. Lopez explained that he is in support of the students because he does not agree with CPS’ plan to close these high schools.

Lopez had previously brought proposals to CPS to invest in the already existing neighborhood high schools that CPS said would not work.

“I am not in support of the consolidation efforts,” he said. “I am not in support of closing Harper High School.”

Lopez invited five Harper students into the meeting to give them a chance to speak.

“I think this is the best way for us to get our voice out, to get seen and for them to know that there are people involved with the decisions they're making,” he said.

Rodriguez was one of the five students that joined Ald. Lopez.  

“Without Harper, I didn’t see myself graduating with a 3.0. It’s a place where you can get your education without being judged, somewhere you can get help,” she said.

The school board is set to vote on these proposals in February 2019, and community meetings will be held prior to the vote.