CHICAGO (CBS) — City officials were putting the finishing touches on the new Safe Passage routes for Chicago Public Schools students, and said they’re ready for the first day of class a week from Monday.
WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports approximately 600 paid Safe Passage workers will be spread over 53 new routes being set up this year. Most of those routes will be used by the 13,000 students being shifted to new schools this fall, after 49 elementary schools were closed this summer.
The Safe Passage program already was in place at 35 high schools in the city.
“The biggest concern is just the safety of the students going to and from school,” said Chicago Police Deputy Chief Wayne Gulliford.
Police said neighbors along the Safe Passage routes have been told about the plans, and thousands are already on board to volunteer their assistance.
“To date, our officers have knocked on doors of more than 625 blocks, and already nearly 2,500 residents have agreed to participate,” he said.
Tony Ruiz, deputy director of CPS’ Office of Safety and Security, said the Safe Passage workers are local residents who will make sure kids get to and from school safely.
“These workers know our schools,” he said. “They’re also receiving specialized training to keep our students safe, as they monitor designated walking routes to and from school.”
Buildings Department Commissioner Michael Merchant said the city has secured or demolished scores of abandoned buildings located along the Safe Passage routes.
“We’ve secured over 281 buildings, and we’ve demolished 19 buildings on or near Safe Passage routes,” he said. Three more will be demolished in the next week.
The Safe Passage workers have been undergoing training, and will be ready to staff their routes on Aug. 26, the first day of class for CPS.
They’ll watch from almost every corner, every school day as students head to class and back home.
During their training, police officers told them how to spot trouble and most importantly when to respond and when to call for help.
They were warned to never put themselves in the middle of situation where they could get hurt.
Anita Williams took notes on all of it.
“I was writing, ‘Be positive, be friendly and professional at all times,'” she told CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker “I think I had pretty good training. You just have to be aware and put your armor of God on. I’m prayed up and I’m ready.”
Police officers, firefighters, and other city workers also will be stationed along the routes.