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Dual Risks Of Pandemic And Violent Crime Have North Lawndale Students On Edge; 'It's Very Hard To Focus'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Students at staff at a school on the West Side say they're dealing with a two-headed monster; they're trying to learn amid not just a pandemic, but gun violence in the neighborhood.

They told CBS 2 Morning Insider Tim McNicholas they need help from the Chicago Police Department.

At 16th and Christiana, Breonna Sanders is battling through a school year full of distractions.

She's in her school's hybrid model, learning online three days a week and in person two days a week.

"It's very nerve-racking to just have to focus on this every day; very hard," Sanders said.

Earlier this month, two students at North Lawndale College Prep High School were shot just after leaving school. They're now recovering, and students and staff don't want that to happen to anyone else.

"It really hit hard, because they don't seem like the type of people to be involved in violence like that. So it's like, I don't know, like I could be next, you know?" Sanders said.

The shooting happened just blocks from the school, in the same neighborhood where a 25-year-old man was shot and killed later that week.

Sanders said, whether she's at home or in the school building, she sometimes hears gunshots in broad daylight during her school day.

"It's very scary, because then I'm afraid that a bullet's gonna come through the window, and just hit one of us, you know? It's very hard to focus," Sanders said.

That's just one hurdle.

"It's disheartening. It's frustrating," said her principal, Arriel Azadi Williams.

Williams said the school is also struggling to keep students engaged as they learn from home. The charter school plans to hire more people to go out to students' homes and make sure they're logging in and ready for their e-learning.

"There's a lot of reasons to not be engaged with school during the pandemic," Williams said.

While North Lawndale works on that problem, they're asking CPD for help with the other.

"We would like to see more visibility in front of our school at dismissal. We don't have the luxury of not having police presence," Williams said.

Violent crime was dropping in North Lawndale over the past few years, but like many neighborhoods, it's seen an increase in 2020.

"This is very dangerous, and we just need more police officers here to protect us," Sanders said.

So far, school leaders say that request has not been granted.

Chicago Police said they have assigned special attention to that area, but school leaders said they have not noticed a consistent presence, and they're not getting the resources they need.

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