Chicago to Hire 600 for School Safe-Passage Routes

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In May, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 schools and programs, the largest number of closings at any one time by any school district in recent memory, according to many experts.

The plan sparked protests and lawsuits from opponents who say the school closures disproportionately affect minority neighborhoods and will endanger children who may have to cross gang boundaries to get to a new school.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his schools chief, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, have acknowledged the danger of mixing young people from different neighborhoods. Byrd-Bennett agreed in January not to close any high schools. And the district consulted maps of gang lines when choosing where to send elementary students whose schools were closing.

In a parallel effort, Chicago officials are inspecting hundreds of vacant buildings along the school routes, said Michael Merchant, commissioner of the city’s buildings department. Merchant has asked the public to report vacant buildings along school routes, so inspectors can secure them. Some buildings have been referred for possible demolition.

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