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With Hunger Strike Over, Chicago Activists to Focus on Elected School Board

The Chicago activists who staged a hunger strike to force the Chicago school district to reopen Walter H. Dyett High School as a green technology school, will now focus their efforts on working toward the creation of an elected school board.

The group called off the hunger strike on Saturday, 34 days after they started and weeks after the district announced plans to open an arts-focused neighborhood high school on the Dyett campus.

Jitu Brown, one of the activists and hunger strikers, said that despite calling off the hunger strike, the dozen or so who participated in the weeks-long protests remained energized, the Chicago Tribune reported.

"This was a righteous fight," he said, according to the Chicago Tribune.  "This was 'good versus bad,' and making sure that our children and our communities get the respect we deserve. And we will make sure that Dyett High School meets the needs of children in Bronzeville." 

Brown and others were hoping that the district would reopen the South Side school, which was slated to be phased out at the end of the last school year. They wanted a neighborhood school focused on global leadership and green technology.

About two weeks into the protest, Chicago Public Schools announced that it would reopen Dyett as an arts-focused school next fall. The school will also have an innovation lab to be run in conjunction with the Illinois Institute of Technology.

That did not appease the activists, who continued their protests for a few more weeks. They remain in talks with the school board, the paper said.

The Tribune reports that the protesters, who included members of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, said they would join calls for the creation of an elected school board in the city.

The school district, the third largest in the country, is under mayoral control, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel appoints the school board members.

The Chicago Teachers' Union and some community activists have long called for members of the school board to be elected. 

In the February primary, the majority of voters in 37 wards approved a nonbinding ballot question that supported the creation of an elected school board in Chicago. (The question did not appear in all 50 wards.)

That change, from appointing to electing school board members, can only be made by legislators in Springfield.

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