CHICAGO (AP) — Busy, unfamiliar streets were made a bit friendlier Monday, the first day of school in Chicago, thanks to hundreds of newly hired safety guards. But some parents expressed doubt the effort would protect their children, who now must cross gang boundaries to get to their new classrooms after their old ones closed.
The Safe Passage program guards in neon vests lined city streets in neighborhoods with closed schools, the most visible sign of what’s at stake for the nation’s third-largest school district, which is struggling academically and financially.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called Monday “a new beginning” for the district, planned to join students walking to O’Toole Elementary in the West Englewood neighborhood on the city’s South Side.
The Chicago Board of Education — hand-picked by Emanuel — voted in May to close about 50 elementary schools and programs, a move Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said would allow the district to improve academics and help pay down a $1 billion budget deficit.
Critics of the school closings said minority students were disproportionately affected and that many students would now have to cross dangerous gang boundaries. Some families sued, but a federal judge refused to halt the plan.
On Monday, concerned parents took time off of work or recruited family members to make sure students arrived at their new schools.
Annie Stovall walked her granddaughter, 9-year-old Kayla Porter, to Gresham Elementary School in the Gresham neighborhood, about 4 miles south of O’Toole Elementary.
Stovall said she’s skeptical Chicago’s first-day show of force will last.
“I think it’s just show-and-tell right now,” Stovall said. “Five, six weeks down the road, let’s see what’s going to happen.”
One of the guards in the Gresham neighborhood, 57-year-old Rochelle Nicholson, said their presence is reassuring to students and is needed “for the children’s safety.”
There have been a number of shootings along the Safe Passage routes this summer, including one in the Uptown neighborhood on the North Side last Monday. Five were injured and one of the men died last week.
Jennifer Press, who drove her 4-year-old daughter to a preschool program at Gresham Elementary, said gang violence is a concern for her. She has two other young children.
“They will ride to school for the rest of their lives, as long as I’m in Chicago,” Press said.
CPS hired an additional 600 workers at a rate of $10 per hour to supplement an existing program known as Safe Passage. The newly hired workers include includes Chicago firefighters and even security guards from local public libraries.
“Safe Passage is about more than just building a route to school,” Emanuel told about 1,000 people during a training session last week. “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.
“That’s a new chapter,” Emanuel said. “There is a new beginning.”
The Safe Passage program was already was in place at 35 high schools and four elementary schools — buildings district officials say have seen a 7 percent increase in attendance and a 20 percent decrease in crime since Safe Passage began.
Chicago police worked with residents and CPS to map out routes in 52 of the so-called “welcoming schools” — the ones taking in students from the closed schools. Bright yellow signs have been posted along the routes and maps were distributed to parents and guardians.
Emanuel also deployed city departments to repair sidewalks, replace street lights, paint over graffiti and board up nearly 300 abandoned buildings along the routes.
Schools themselves also saw improvements, including upgraded air conditioning and new libraries and computer labs, even though CPS in recent months laid off more than 3,000 teachers and staff members due to budget issues.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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