Controversy surrounds Woodlawn school being used to house migrants

As early as this Friday, Jan. 6, a group of migrants from the Texas border could be moving into a former CPS elementary school on Chicago’s South Side; however, the plan is causing controversy in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor of the 20th Ward says the city didn’t consult her on their plan of housing asylum seekers in the building before a decision was made.

"Ultimately what you’re saying is, the hell with the interest of the community, the hell with the history. This is what we’re doing with the building," said Ald. Taylor. "The community gets to decide what happens to this school; our tax dollars are paying for it."

The now unoccupied building at 64th and University Avenue once housed Wadsworth Elementary School. The city confirms they are planning to use the space as a temporary shelter for asylum seekers.


So far, more than 3,800 migrants have arrived in Chicago on buses from the Texas border.

It’s unclear exactly how many will be placed at the CPS building, and for how long.

Taylor says she was blindsided when she learned the city might be placing upwards of 300 asylum seekers in the old elementary school. She says the city did not give her an opportunity to talk with residents about their feelings before the plan was put into motion.

"We have to work together for the betterment of the community, so the thought that the City of Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot would carry out this plan and spend $1.5 million on a school that’s closed — she needs to remember I’m elected just like she is."

FOX 32 Chicago requested a statement from the Office of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, but instead received a statement from a city official, which said, in part: "Former schools like Wadsworth work well for this operation because the ample space provides flexibility."

The statement also confirms the city has conducted repairs and updates "to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the new arrivals."

Taylor says she's not against migrants being housed throughout the city but feels there are local housing issues that should be addressed first.

"My heart goes out to them, but we’re going to put them through more trauma by dropping them in a community that’s already under-resourced," said Taylor. "We are a sanctuary city, but you’ve got people sleeping on 57th and King Drive at the bus shelter. We’ve got homeless shelters in disarray, where we kick people out at 8 a.m. and they have to stand in line for somewhere to sleep. So you can’t get that in order but they are accommodating other people."

FOX 32 Chicago has requested details about sleeping arrangements for the migrants that will be sheltered in the former elementary school, and if additional bathrooms and kitchens have been built inside but have not received those details yet.