Parents get first look at school security plan changes - KMSP-TV

Parents get first look at school security plan changes

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chicago Public School officials are making a new round of promises about the safety of students who will be forced to transfer next fall. Independent hearing officers rejected previous proposals for nine campuses.

CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement that she took the scathing critiques the hearing officers delivered for nine proposed closings seriously. One that's gotten national attention is a school located right next to the former site of the CHA's now-demolished Cabrini-Green housing development.

It would take more than $13 million to air condition and otherwise bring Manierre Elementary up to 21st century standards, according to school officials who want to shut it down.

Those who want to keep it open, though, note that it's on turf claimed by two street gangs: the Vice Lords and the Mickey Cobras. Plans call for most students here to transfer to Jenner Academy, only four blocks away, but within turf claimed by a faction of the Gangster Disciples; a gang federal investigators 20 years found had annual revenue of at least $100 million, nearly all from the sale of illegal drugs.

"It's not a smart move at all," says Tonya McKinney, who has an 8-year-old son at Manierre Elementary. "Not until they can control the gangs and the violence. When they do that, then maybe."

A new CPS plan released Monday promises that Jenner will have six security officers next fall, plus a new digital video camera surveillance system, as well as dozens of people, including police, who will monitor four "safe passage" routes through the competing gang turf.

Despite the complaints and concerns, since the demolition of the CHA's old Cabrini-Green development, gang activity has diminished dramatically. Million-dollar homes have sprouted less than a block from Manierre and the once all-black community is now racially integrated, to the dismay of some longtime residents.

"They're dismayed, because they've been pushed aside," says Kevin Taylor. "They don't have a voice. So the issues, the things that matter to them always get swept to the side."

CPS is promising that as part of "Safe Passage" it will hire people "who have significant knowledge of the dynamics of the community" and can play the role of community watcher. They're promising other supports, including peace circles, peer-to-peer juries, and interventions for students who need individualized attention. It won't be cheap.

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