By Dorothy Tucker

(CBS) — Nearly 2,000 people have already applied to work the city’s Safe Passage program. But CPS officials they’ll still accepting applicants to fill the 600 slots.

The new workers will be assigned to schools that will welcome transfer students this fall. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker takes a closer look at the critical role the workers will play in keeping students safe.

Safe Passage is not new. You’ll already find workers at select schools like Doolittle. In August you’ll find more, making sure students like Alexia Howard are protected as she heads to her new school.

The main thing her mother wants is to make sure Alexia isn’t bullied.

Safe Passage Worker Kathryn Wiley looks out for bullies and anyone else who might try to harm a child.

“We look for the different, especially sex offenders and people that hang around the school out of the ordinary and in their cars, lingering around the area,” she says.

Spotting gang activity is also on the list.

“Majority of the time the gangs don’t really linger when they see us. It’s like they just think we’re the police. They have a tendency to flee,” Wiley says, laughing.

Like Wiley, the new hires will be from the community and familiar with the area. Developing a trust with students will be key.

“They’ll just say, ‘Hey, there’s been a fight around here after hours.’ They may say, ‘Hey, there’s a suspicious car.’ What’s even better is some of the students — if their parents or somebody are just a couple of minutes late  — they say, ‘Can we stand by you?’ They feel safe.”

Each school will be assigned several workers. Parents get to weigh in on where they’ll be located.

“We’re going to hold meetings for every welcoming school so parents can come and see the final route as well as meet the Safe Passage vendors,” says Jadine Chou, CPS chief safety and security officer.

CPS expects to hire Safe Passage workers over the next two weeks. After that parents can look for emails, texts and letters with more information about the safe passage program at their child’s school.

Dorothy Tucker