Parents sit-in to save school’s ‘casita’

To save an old school building known as the “casita,” Chicago parents are sitting in around the clock at Whittier Dual Language School, reports the Wall Street Journal. The $356,000 budgeted to tear down the 2,000-square-foot building should be used to fix it up and turn it into a library, parents say. They’re already collecting books.

School-district officials say the building, in a poor Latino neighborhood southwest of the Loop, is unsafe and would be too expensive to bring up to current building codes. “It’s not even a building. It’s a structure,” said Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Public Schools. “It would need to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up.”

Building a new library would cost $5 million to $20 million, the district claims.

The building has been used for after-school activities, community events and, most recently, as a place for students’ mothers to take classes in sewing and English as a second language. Last year, the district built a parent meeting room, as well as science and computer labs, as part of a $1.4 million in improvements at the school.

Parents say the old building could be fixed up cheaply with the help of volunteer labor from students’ parents. They’ve already shelved 600 books and more are coming in.

Does it really take $356,000 to tear down a one-story building? And more than that to bring it up to code? Of course, the district wouldn’t get away with using volunteer labor, even if half the dads are construction workers.

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Things like this are called “anarchy” or “vigilantiism” (sp?). When the peons try to do things for themselves, all manner of interests are threatened.
    Any manner of regulations will be found, codes will be interpreted vigorously, the usual Chicago ways of escaping the strictures will be unavailable.
    Be interesting if somebody could buy the building. How much would it cost to buy a building which is suitable only for destruction?
    Still, in Chicago, private ownership does not imply much of an increase in freedom.

  2. This is an unfortunate side effect of the Americans with Disabilities Act. While I’m sympathetic towards disabled individuals’ concerns about access, the ADA has raised the cost of renovation projects in public buildings enormously.

  3. I’m sure that ADA considerations are part of the problem, but I suspect that bureaucracy and rules requiring union labor are a bigger piece.

    The educational establishment seems to have developed a perverse drive to demand new buildings as an absolute requirement. I’m not sure I see the connection, however.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Could it be that the educrats fear competitioni?

  5. I can’t fathom what’s driving the costs that high other than an asbestos issue or standard issue government graft. After having worked on P&C insurance software the last few years, my back of the envelope calculation as to how much it would take to replace that building is $350,000-$450,000 depending on its construction type. This would include all ADA access requirements.


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