Abandoned schools plague Little Village

Protesters outside the Chicago Public Schools board meeting today pushed for demolition of two dilapidated, rat-plagued abandoned schools in Little Village.

The ROTC Armory, located at California and 23rd, and the Washburne Trade School at 31st and Kedzie were deserted eight years ago.

"They outlived their usefulness," said CPS Deputy Press Secretary Mike Vaughn.

With broken windows and entrances, rat infestation and garbage buildup, the buildings have aggravated local residents for a number of years.

"These buildings are not only dangerous, they are eyesores," said Jaime de Leon, the New Communities Program Director of the Little Village Community Development Corp.

Carrying signs that read "Little Village is not a ghetto," the protesters claimed that the dilapidated school buildings were making the the neighborhood look like one.

"We want to better our community. We represent over 90,000 residents," said Community Organizer Maria Velazquez of the Telpochcalli Community Education Project.

This protest was not news for the CPS. The LCVDC has unsuccessfully undergone eight years of negotiations with the Chicago Board of Education. According to Velazquez, today's demonstration was more of a call to action than awareness.

"The CPS has information on [our] plans, but...they aren't willing to sit down with us. They know what we need. It is just a matter of getting together to find a solution."

Meanwhile, CPS President Rufus Williams said the demolition process is not the sole responsibility of the Chicago Board of Education.

"It takes a number of city departments to make that [demolition] happen and we are working with those departments," said Williams.

One of those departments includes the Chicago Mayor's Office, which, according to Vaughn, is working with the CPS to figure out what to do with those sites.

Vaughn could not immediately explain why the buildings have been allowed to stand vacant for eight years.