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CPS Closings: Schools CEO Pushes to Expand Safe Passage Program

By Emily Morris | June 24, 2013 11:14am
 CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett speaks at the Chicago Board of Education meeting on May 22.
CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett speaks at the Chicago Board of Education meeting on May 22.
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DNAinfo/Tanveer Ali

CHICAGO — As the Chicago Public Schools move forward with citywide school closings, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is pushing for more Safe Passage workers to get kids safely to their welcoming schools this fall.

CPS earlier this month announced plans to add 600 workers to its Safe Passage program, which was created in 2009 to provide students safe escorts to school.

Byrd-Bennett wants to add 19 Safe Passage vendors, which usually include churches and other community organizations, that would hire the workers and nearly double the size of the program, according to a statement from CPS. The new cost to CPS would be $7.7 million.

She is recommending the program expansion to the Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday, according to the statement.

The workers would be charged with ensuring that about 30,000 kids impacted by the closings get to their new schools safely, according to CPS. About 51 schools will be welcoming students from closing schools this fall.

“Student safety is among our top priorities,” Byrd-Bennett said in a statement. “Expanding the successful Safe Passage program to include next year’s welcoming schools is one of several steps we’re taking to create safe environments in and around our schools.”

In addition to the proposed expansion, CPS has added a Safe Passage group to identify trouble spots and held meetings with parents and Chicago Police to discuss safety plans. It also plans to add a new security officer to each welcoming school and more security equipment, such as cameras and alarms, if needed.

Among the concerns for students headed to new schools is that some will be crossing gang territories, putting them at risk of getting caught in the crossfire of gang disputes, DNAinfo Chicago has reported.