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City To Hire 600 Workers For Safe Passage Routes After School Closings

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel trotted out several top city officials on Friday – and will continue doing so throughout the summer – as plans are finalized to keep kids safe as they go to and from their new schools next fall, after 49 elementary schools are closed later this month.

WBBM Newsradio's Mike Krauser reports the mayor clearly is trying to minimize the potential for an "I told you so" moment from parents who have expressed skepticism their kids will be safe when they are switched to new schools.

City To Hire 600 Safe Passage Workers

CPS Safety & Security Chief Jadine Chou said the city will spend $7.7 million to hire 600 workers to staff Safe Passage routes that will be set up at the welcoming schools.

"Every welcoming school this fall will have a customized, dedicated safety plan; created in collaboration with the Chicago Police Department to ensure that our students have a safe route to and from school, and a safe environment inside of their schools," Chou said.

CBS 2's Susanna Song reports 39 public schools already use the Safe Passage Program, designed to provide kids a safe route to and from school. The program is staffed by police officers, city workers, and community volunteers.

The so-called "welcoming schools" where students displaced by the school closings will attend class next year will be added to the program. CPS plans to have Safe Passage routes for those schools finalized by August.

So far, city and school officials have held about 42 meetings with parents and local residents to discuss the Safe Passage plans to get community input before finalizing the routes.

Chicago Police Deputy Chief of Patrol Steve Georgas said every school would have a police presence as well, but he said police will need the community's help to keep kids safe outside and inside school.

"It's not just a Police Department issue. We need everyone to help us with this project," he said.

Chicago police, the Department of Streets and Sanitation, and the Department of Transportation also have been working to repair broken lights, board up vacant buildings, and remove or cover up graffiti on the affected routes.

"In just a few weeks, over 11,000 different city service requests, from broken street lamps to addressing conditions in vacant lots and vacant buildings, have already been completed," Georgas said.

CPS also plans to renovate 100 schools to install air conditioning in every classroom. The district has purchased 2,400 air conditioning units to achieve that goal.

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