With a ring of the bell, the doors of Chicago Public Schools reopened for 435,000 students Tuesday.
"We know we're going to have a great start to the school year," said Ron Huberman, Chicago Public Schools CEO.
Mayor Richard Daley, Huberman and Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije kicked off the 2010-11 school year with a ceremony at Wells Community Academy High School, at 936 N. Ashland Ave., on Chicago’s West side.
One difference for students returning to class this year is the creation of the Safe Passage program. The program includes 500 community watchers dressed in bright vests who patrol around 38 schools, keeping an eye and ear out for violence. The watchers carry cell phones with GPS technology that they use to call in an event of trouble.
“Safety has got to be the first thing that all our kids have a right to feel,” said Huberman.
CPS opened 17 new schools this year, six of them in new buildings.
As part of the Million Father March, many dads walked their kids to class on the first day in an effort to be more involved the entire school year.
"There's not a lot of dad's that are able to participate and bring their kids to school, so I just wanted to pretty much be an example to all the dads out there," said father Eric Judd.
Mayor Daley was also excited to announce the opening of the first 30 new college and career academies.
"We believe we can, yes, in the public schools through all of our training programs [and the] city colleges, be able to have young people graduate from our public school system [and] be able to apply for a job when they're ready to take that job," he said.
Chicago Public Schools is the nation’s third largest school district. Recently, it’s been hampered by budget strains and layoffs.