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School Hustles Kids, Staff Out Door After Recent Nearby Gun Violence

CHICAGO (STMW) -- One of the welcoming schools that took in students after Chicago Public Schools closed a record number of schools has been hustling students and staff out the door at the end of the day in response to recent gun violence nearby.

Dulles School of Excellence, 6311 S. Calumet Ave., has told staffers in a memo and in announcements to clear the building and parking lot immediately after school is dismissed at 3:30 p.m. Teachers were told to exit with their students and leave the school.

"For safety reasons, PLEASE ADHERE TO THE FOLLOWING GUIDELINES" reads one memo handed out on Sept. 6. "In the event that students are not picked up at 3:30, please bring the child and current phone number to the office. Staff members will not be permitted back into the building except to bring late students to office for phone calls."

On Friday morning, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to cut the ribbon on the school's new playground and turf field. The improvements were received as one of about 50 CPS schools that took in children from 47 elementary schools and a high school program that closed in June.

Dulles also has a Safe Passage program — designated paths for children to follow to school. Before and after school, police officers and yellow-vested community workers line the Safe Passage route.

Deirdre Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Academy for Urban School Leadership, which has run the school since 2009, when CPS fired the staff and turned the school over to the academy, said the new procedure started Sept. 6 and has continued since.

After a recent murder, "the school started dismissing children at the normal bell schedule, but was really enforcing quick and efficient dismissal," Campbell said.

Campbell said Dulles' principal, Kesa Thurman, coordinated with Safe Passage workers to make sure arrivals and dismissals were covered. Thurman did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Dulles staffers said they've been notified each day over the loudspeaker about the secure dismissals. And afternoon football practice has been canceled pending further notice, Campbell said.

"My hope is this is a temporary situation and we continue to offer all of the things Dulles offers going forward," she said.

CPS released a statement that said Safe Passage workers "are working closely with Principal Thurman every day to ensure that all children have safe routes as they walk to and from school so they can remain focused on their studies instead of their safety," spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in an email.

In an emailed statement Thursday night, Chicago Police News Affairs director Adam Collins said: "There have been two shootings in the general Parkway Gardens area over the past few weeks. Neither took place during school hours or near arrival and dismissal times. CPD has an added presence in the area to ensure the safety of all children and the community."

Chicago Police have been monitoring the possibility of a retaliatory shooting after the Aug. 27 murder of 17-year-old Pierce Curry in the 6200 block of South State. He was in the back seat of a vehicle at 1:30 a.m. when another car pulled up and someone opened fire, striking Curry in the head, police said.

Factions of the Black Disciples and the Gangster Disciples have long been in conflict near the Parkway Gardens apartments just south of the school, police said.

The area around 63rd and King, at the east end of the school, has seen other recent shootings. On Sept. 2 at 2:37 p.m., a 47-year-old man was shot twice in the abdomen at 63rd and Martin Luther King Drive, police said. The victim, who was standing in front of a currency exchange, ran to a McDonald's for safety. A gunman shot at a 2006 Ford Taurus in that incident, but no one in the car was wounded. No one was in custody as of Thursday, and police didn't know a motive for the shooting.

Fabian Heard, father of four Dulles students ages 6 through 13, who live two blocks from the school, has been leaving work early to pick up his kids to take them home.

"Now they rush a lot of the kids out of here because there's been shootings in both directions," Heard said from the driver's seat of his tan sedan at 3:30 sharp Thursday. "There's more of a haste to do it, and now I understand it's because of the violence. They shoot right here on King Drive."

His eldest son, Demetrius Bailey, is one of the football players who's missing afternoon practice. He said school officials have been telling kids, "Go straight home, no playing around."

"They don't want anybody to get hurt," Demetrius said.

Heard said he will continue to pick up his kids every afternoon. "Right now is when all the knuckleheads come out."

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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