Last Thursday, approximately 40 people met to consider plans for Bronzeville’s Dyett High School’s 2016–17 reopening after being closed for two years. Attendees, including Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers, parents, students, and members of surrounding communities discussed implementation of a green curriculum, a weekly internship program for students, and community initiatives at the school to engage Bronzeville residents.
Dyett closed in 2013–14 due to low attendance. In August 2015, a group of activists went on a hunger strike for 34 days to protest the closing of the last open-enrollment school in Bronzeville (the others are selective enrollment, and require that students apply) and in September, CPS announced that the school would reopen in 2016 as an arts high school. Dyett parents present at the meeting explained that students within the attendance boundary for the school can register with proof of address, but that out-of-boundary students specifically interested in the arts program will have to apply.
Activists and some Bronzeville residents were not satisfied with the plan to reopen Dyett as an arts school, as it did not match their proposals to create a green technology high school instead. “They say it should be an arts school, but the biggest unemployed industry is arts, while one of the fastest growing industries is green technology,” explained Jitu Brown, an education activist for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization who led Thursday’s meeting. “This is a human rights issue, making our children able to compete in the twenty-first century.”
Brown also raised the possibility of colloquium Wednesdays in which students intern with local, national, or even international organizations each week. According to Brown, local groups, such as the Hyde Park Herald, have already agreed to work with Dyett students. Additionally, attendees discussed potential community initiatives through the school, such as sewing or martial arts classes for local residents.
Frustration surrounding the city’s involvement in Dyett remains. “What is missing is the political will to love black children on the South Side of Chicago like those in other parts of the city,” Brown said. “I feel like right now we’re an afterthought.”