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Safe Passage program expanded by Illinois

Illinois expanded its Safe Passage program to 27 more schools for the 2013-14 school year.
Illinois expanded its Safe Passage program to 27 more schools for the 2013-14 school year.Photo by Gallo Images

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Public Schools boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett at an Aug. 29th news conference to announce the "CPS Safe Passage" program will expand through $10 million in support from Quinn’s office and the state of Illinois.

Safe Passage workers will be added along school perimeters at 27 additional schools, serving nearly 15,000 more children. Combined with other investments the City is making, there will be 40 new Safe Passage routes this school year, up from 93 routes last year and triple the number of routes from when the Mayor took office. More than 69,000 students will be served under the overall expansion.​

Emanuel also attended a back to school rally today for more than 1,200 Safe Passage workers who are preparing to return to work on the first day of school on Sept. 2.

“Safe Passage is about more than just building a route to school; it is about building a route to college, career and beyond, so that once our kids get to school, they get the world-class education they deserve,” said Emanuel. “Our Safe Passage workers and community members play a critical role to ensure that our children are able to arrive at school each and every day ready to learn and focused on their studies, not their safety.”

“Our first priority as a state must be the education and well-being of our children,” Quinn said. “As we kick-off a new school year, all students should be focused on their studies - not on their safety - as they walk to and from school. The Safe Passage program has proven to be a successful way to improve attendance, increase safety and boost learning in our classrooms. With this state investment, we can reach even more schools and help ensure safe passage for more students.”

The Safe Haven program, a partnership between CPS and the Faith Community, will also expand as part of this funding to 40 after-school sites. The Safe Haven program is housed in the Office of Faith Based Initiatives of Chicago Public Schools and provides a “safe haven” for CPS students that is a reliable and no-cost alternative place for students and parents.

In 2013, the Safe Passage program doubled, with 53 new routes to accommodate students transitioning to welcoming schools. Following a transition of nearly 12,000 students to new schools and the essential doubling of the program, there had been no major incidents involving students on Safe Passage routes near schools during the program’s operational hours.

"Ensuring that every child has access to a safe and nurturing learning environment is one of our top priorities, which is why we continue to invest in our successful Safe Passage program,” said Byrd-Bennett. "It is with the dedication of our Safe Passage workers and community members that children can make their way safely to and from school and remain engaged in rigorous curriculum that will prepare them for a bright future. The expansion of Safe Passage was a success last year, yet as we head into the new school year our work to ensure students can remain focused on school and not their safety will continue every day. "

With $1 million the Mayor announced last month, CPS added six new routes to support non-designated welcoming schools, which are schools that received students from schools consolidated in 2013. Another seven routes support schools undergoing colocation or relocation.

The new $10 million will support Safe Passage at 27 new schools and expand the number of Safe Passage workers at current Safe Passage schools.

The 27 new Safe Passage schools include:

Thomas A. Hendricks Community Academy
Edward Jenner Academy of the Arts
Parkside Community Academy
Carter G. Woodson School
Emmett Louis Till Math & Science Academy
Arthur A. Libby Elementary School
Claremont Academy Elementary School
Clara Barton Elementary School
Ray Graham Training Center High School
Southside Occupational Academy High School
Alcott College Prep
Northside Learning Center High School
Uplift Community High School
Air Force Academy High School
Chicago Military Academy High School
Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy
Spencer Elementary Technology Academy
Lindblom Math & Science Academy
John H. Hamline Elementary School
Cesar Chavez Multicultural Academic Center Elementary School
Eric Solorio Academy High School
Irene C. Hernandez Middle School
Sandoval Elementary School
John Spry Elementary School
Telpochalli Elementary School
Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy
Spry Community Links High School

This year’s investment made by the city will support hiring an additional 100 Safe Passage workers to support more than 100 schools across the city. The governor’s investment will add another 600 Safe Passage workers, for a total of 1,900.

The Safe Passage program has been successfully keeping Chicago school children safe as they travel to and from specific schools since its inception in 2009. Safe Passage has demonstrated other important affects in schools, including the decline of criminal incidents around schools, and an increase in attendance. Safe Passage historically results in a 7 percent boost in attendance at a school, contributing to a district attendance record of 93.2 percent last school year.

All Safe Passage workers have undergone a comprehensive training program that taught them how to effectively staff their post and safely support out children, how to build relationships, anticipate issues before they occur, and proper protocols for de-escalating situations. Training is on-going throughout the year.

The success of the program is credited to the positive engagement of Safe Passage workers with the students they serve. Safe passage workers are from the community and therefore understand the community dynamics, and often already know the families and students.

Safe passage workers support students by not only being an extra set of eyes and ears to proactively identify and report safety risks, but also by building relationships with students and if necessary, de-escalating situations to prevent serious incidents from happening in the first place. The district collaborates with various community organizations, known as “Safe Passage vendors,” hire residents from the community to ensure that students could get to and from school safely.

Chicago Public Schools serves 400,000 students in 665 schools and is the nation’s third-largest school district.