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Enthusiastic Safe Passage Workers Brave Cold

Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – While it may be too soon to grade the CPS school closings and consolidation with other neighborhood schools, one aspect of that plan seems to be working well.

Keeping those students safe is a network of Safe Passage routes and hundreds of workers to man them.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine checked out those routes and workers on a morning when you might not expect perfect attendance and found out that it was pretty close to it.

Levine reports the men and women were unfailingly enthusiastic about what they were doing despite the conditions.

“Everybody is here. We’re all here,” said Safe Passage worker Ricky Brown.

In the West Side Austin community outside Leland Elementary, Marnicka Huston was walking 4-year-old Imaginee to Pre-K

“When the kids walking they make sure they cross the street the right way, It’s perfect,” said Huston.

Out south in Woodlawn, Kevin Fleming was thankful all the yellow jacketed workers were there to make sure Kevin Jr. and Katrina got to Fisk safely.

“Makes me feel good, the community involved,” said Fleming.

It was cold, cold work for $10 an hour, with gloves, face masks, even cardboard boxes helping them survive their two and a half hour morning shift.

CBS 2 checked out five different Safe Passage schools and found dozens of workers manning their posts without complaint. When we told the Mayor about it this morning, he wasn’t surprised.

“About three weeks ago I told my staff I wanna bring in all the safe passage companies and eventually bring in the workers… and remind them in this cold weather how important their work is to do,” said Emanuel.

What we found is that many didn’t need the reminder.

“These kids need to know they’re protected, they need to know that we care by any means necessary. We have to be out here for these children,” said Brown.

Ricky Brown is one of 600 new hires for special Safe Passage corridors to the so-called welcoming schools, working side by side to supplement regular School security personnel.

CPS security guard Ed Morales said Safe Passage workers are very helpful.

“They are a second pair of eyes. It’s a great program,” said Morales.

One early critic, concerned about youngsters having to cross gang boundaries to get to school, seemed to have been won over.

“I’m not surprised. I wanted to make sure the resources were there so we would not have surprises,” said Alderman Jason Ervin.

Those resources, about $8 million worth, have helped the consolation plan vault one hurdle. Alderman Ervin says a second, assimilating conflicting cultures brought together at welcoming schools, is still in progress. But the final test, whether the consolidation will result in a better education is still down the road.