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Mayor Rahm Emanuel greeted parents, took a look at improvements made at O'Toole School and visited the Kindergarten classroom. He even walked a Safe Passage route. But not everyone's happy. Mary Ann Ahern reports.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined fourth grader Ashari Westley and her father Monday morning as she walked the Safe Passage route to Luke O'Toole School near 66th and Damen.
After closing 50 schools across Chicago, Monday was a fresh start. Not only did the mayor greet parents, he took a look at improvements made at the school and visited the Kindergarten classroom.
"There were fire trucks out there, there was clearly police officers out there, there were traffic aides as well as Safe Passage workers," Emanuel said, "which means for our children in the city of Chicago to live up to their full potential, we as adults have to live up to our responsibility."
Emanuel refused to take any questions from the media or the Chicago Teachers Union as the CTU's Jackson Potter lobbied for tax increment financing money to ease school budgets that have been deeply cut.
"I think [it's] a bit deceptive," Potter said. "Everything's good to go, we're set, we're stable, we're ready, and then these massive budget cuts which is in his control to determine what happens."
"The budget cuts are devastating," schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said. "We need pension reform from Springfield. ... We are all going to make certain that what our children need, they will have, and I'm excited for this school year so we can focus on what's most important: teaching and learning."
Chicago firefighters said they have been told they'll be supplementing the Safe Passage routes in the morning and again after school until further notice.
Likewise Chicago Police officers were pulled from various parts of the city to stand guard as school children passed boarded-up homes and perhaps crossed gang territory to get to their classrooms.
"I'll bring my child everyday myself, and I don't take 63rd," parent Jacqueline Davis said. "I take shortcuts to get him to school, because it's dangerous and Safe Passage could be out here and it's still no good. If a gang banger's gonna shoot and fight, it's gonna happen."
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy contends shootings this year are way down.
"We've got 92 less murders in this city right now compared to last year. We've got the lowest murder rate in this city since 1965.