CPS community worries Safe Passage isn`t ready for first day - KMSP-TV

CPS community worries Safe Passage isn`t ready for first day

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Safe Passage routes are designed to protect Chicago Public School students from crime, so children can get to and from class safely. But are things ready to go for the first day of school?

One of those routes passes through the intersection of 55th and Prairie in the Washington Park neighborhood, where FOX 32 news spoke with community leaders and parents to ascertain their answer to this question.

CPS parents Deborah Morgan said the program is a good start, but not enough when it comes to protecting students from harm's way.

The question of Safe Passage preparedness is also on the minds of parents and students alike since it comes on the heels of a shooting in Uptown that left five people hurt on Monday, along one of the proposed routes.

SEE: 5 injured in shooting near Uptown bus stop

CPS points out the shooting did not happen during school hours and Safe Passage will be ready to protect students on the first day of school - Monday, Aug. 26.

Some members of the community said it's going to take more than just Chicago police to protect children when the entire CPS district begins the school year next week – it's going to take equal funding.

"For some schools it may be in place," The West Siders against School Closings Coalition's Dwayne Truss said. "For schools like Crown Elementary in North Lawndale - they have the highest number of students, 103 - they received no safe passage money."

Kenwood Oakland Community Organization is one of the oldest African-American led organizations in Chicago. Representative Jitu Brown said he does not believe Safe Passage is ready to keep kids safe.

"It's equivalent to putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound." Brown said. "The decision to close these schools was a horrible decision. They have been doing it in Chicago since 2002. We know it doesn't improve education out comes. Now they had rushed to put this program together.

Brown said the members of his community see the dangers to students along their walks to school every day, and that violence is not new to them.

"We know these routes are not safe," Brown continued. "The route from Overton Elementary School is filled with dangers for our young people. So no, it's not a good decision. It's a disaster waiting to happen, and parents should be upset. We should not accept it."

Brown said one potential solution would be for concerned adults to organize in the school communities and make sure parents and communities have a strong say in what happens in the schools.

"I think we have to fight for an elected representative school board," Brown said. "They shut down 49 schools then sent out a request for proposals for 52 charter schools. But I thought there was a budget crisis. We need the parents. We have to have an elected school board in this city."

Still other community leaders, like Black Star Project's Phillip Jackson, said parents have to do their part – especially fathers – to ensure their child's safety. He handed out fliers and mounted posters for the Million Father March, urging fathers to accompany their children to school on the first day and every day of class.

"Safe Passage is when fathers and men are out," Jackson said. "There we're expecting tens of thousands of fathers and men to be up at the schools."

Jackson's Black Star Project was selected to assist with CPS' Safe Passage Program.

CPS said training and hiring of 600 Safe Passage workers will continue even after school starts.

Despite the diverse opinions, most agree it will take a team effort to keep kids safe including police, community leaders, faith based leaders and parents.

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