Ward Room
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CPS CEO "Walks the Walk" for Safe Passage

Concerned parents stage separate walk to showcase abandoned lots, drug activity

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Concerned parents stage a separate walk to showcase the abandoned lots and drug activity children would pass on their way to new schools. Christian Farr reports.

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Tuesday walked routes some students may take in getting to new schools in hopes of emphasizing the district's Safe Passage program.

"First and foremost our children have to be safe and this is the work that we do every single day with [the Chicago Police Department]," she said. "This is not really new. Tens of thousands of our children are supported by Safe Passage."

This district program aims to provide a safe route for students by stationing monitors in yellow vests who keep an eye out for problems. It would be expanded to include each and every one of the 55 "welcoming schools" that will take in hundreds of students if the school board next month signs off on a plan to shutter dozens of schools.

Meanwhile, a group of parents opposing the school closure plan staged their own walk near William H. King Elementary, at 740 S. Campbell Dr., to illustrate what children would pass on their .8 mile walk to new classes at Jensen Elementary, in the 3000 block of West Harrison Street.

They say drugs, abandoned lots and gang activity are just some of the issues.

"I don't want my boys to walk through violence. I don't want them to walk through the gangs," said Lakecha Green, the mother of 11-year-old and 8-year-old boys.

Byrd-Bennett maintains the district has about 100,000 more seats than students at a time the district is facing a $1 billion deficit. Each closed school, she's said, would ultimately save the district between $500,000 and $800,000, saving the district $560 million over 10 years in capital costs and an additional $43 million per year in operating costs.

The Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote on the proposed closures on May 22. If approved, the closings would take effect at the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

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