CHICAGO — Before creating 53 new Safe Passage routes for Chicago Public Schools students, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett personally walked a handful of the routes, at times by herself, officials said Monday.
Byrd-Bennett walked some of the routes alone, while others she traversed with other CPS personnel.
The routes, CPS officials said, include those assigned to students transferring to:
• Gregory Elementary School, from Bethune;
• Earle, from Goodlow;
• DePriest, from Ellington;
• and Cardenas, from nearby Paderewski.
Byrd-Bennett also walked the would-be route from Ericson to Sumner before Ericson was removed from the closure list in late May.
"I did not feel unsafe in the neighborhoods," Byrd-Bennett said at the news conference.
"Maybe it's because I had a baseball cap on and jeans, and people didn't know who the heck I was, but it didn't disturb me. But nevertheless I know that this is a concern for our parents. It's a concern for all the adults in the community, and we're going to ensure that those passages are safe for children."
But not all parents agree the routes are safe. Some parents of kids transferring from the now-closed Bontemps Elementary to Nicholson Technology Academy told DNAinfo.com Chicago that they don't think their Safe Passage route is a viable option for keeping students out of harm's way.
Gang graffiti and boarded up buildings could be found alongside the "safe passage" signs between Bontemps and Nicholson Friday morning as CPS released the mapped routes for each school reassignment.
"I will homeschool my kids before I send them to Nicholson," said Ayanna Weekly, 36, the parent of four Bontemps students, when she picked up her kids from the school for the last time. "That's prime gang territory, and I'm not about to endanger my kids' life. I don't know the people at [Nicholson]."
(Click on the slideshow above to see photos of the walk from Bontemps to Nicholson.)
And a day after Byrd-Bennett said she felt safe walking Safe Passage routes, two men were shot, one fatally, on the Safe Passage route assigned to Drake Elementary School students. The shooting occurred Saturday evening, however, when school would not have been in session.
School-specific Safe Passage route guides will be mailed to all families with students enrolled in welcoming schools before classes start Aug. 26, according to CPS.