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Families occupy closed school in protest

Updated: July 22, 2013 6:22PM

Nidalis Burgos learned how to play the violin at Lafayette Elementary School. It’s what brought the 15-year-old from “dim to light,” she said.

When the Humboldt Park school’s bell rang for the last time Wednesday, Burgos couldn’t bear the thought of other kids not having the school around.

So Burgos, her family and another family holed up for about three hours inside a second floor classroom to protest the closure.

In all nine people “occupied” the school as dozens of protesters cheered them on from the outside.

“I took it as my responsibility to fight for the other students so they could have a chance as well,” Burgos, a Lincoln Park High School student, said.

Lafayette was one of 28 schools that officially closed Wednesday.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett issued a statement that said: “We know this is a difficult time for some parents and students. We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure every child in every neighborhood has access to the high quality education they deserve and that they have a smooth transition to their welcoming school. As we end this school year, it is time for us as a city to begin the work of creating a deep and lasting change in our schools to ensure our children are on a path to a bright future.”

A CPS spokeswoman said the protest at Lafayette was “the only incident ... Everything else was quiet and peaceful.”

No arrests were made at Lafayette, police said.

The Chicago Teachers Union said it stood in solidarity with the protesters at Lafayette and said it was one of the closing schools people were “most bitter about.” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey called the families inside the school “heroes.”

Inside the school, Burgos took to Twitter to keep supporters updated throughout the sit-in. Police officers and security guards were present inside the school, said Rousemary Vega, Burgos’ mom.

After 6 p.m. — after the other family participating in the sit-in had left the building — Vega and her family came out. Vega, 32, and Burgos were in tears.

“I’m not done. They might have closed our doors but they haven’t shut us down” Vega said, adding, “This is not over. If it is not this school today. It will be another. This is just the beginning of what we can do and what we must do.”

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