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Start Of School Year Means Return For 'Safe Passage Program'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The start of schools citywide also heralded the resumption of full-scale efforts to keep kids safe on the way to and from school under the Safe Passage Program.

CBS 2's Derrick Blakley reports on what is being done at John W. Cook Elementary School at 8150 S. Bishop St. and at other Chicago Public Schools citywide.

Cook, located in the Gresham neighborhood on the South Side, is a year-round school, so students have been in class since last month. Administrators there have been trying to ensure a peaceful start to the school year after a violent incident last spring.

When class is dismissed at Cook, security's on the lookout, with a Chicago cop working as CPS security, augmented by volunteers.

And during the school day, more security officers are inside the school.

Parent Shabia Ross said, "I always look out for my son. I be seeing (security) out here all the time with (students). ... They always be out here, so I'm satisfied with that. I have no problem."

Fellow parent Bernard Barksdale said, "They're usually somewhere; hanging around somewhere. There's plenty of them, so if you walk more than 20 feet, you should bump into one."

In April, a 12-year-old 7th grader at Cook was shot in front of the school, right around dismissal time, when Herman Worsham was picking up his daughter.

"The kids was getting out of school, I'm bringing my daughter out and a little guy come running from down this way and just start shooting," Worsham said.

After that incident, school administrators responded.

"The security definitely, I would say, doubled," said parent Ramona Napoleon. "A substantial increase, yes."

Fellow parent Paul Johnson said, "It's been nice, cool, quiet. You know, security be around. We see police officers posted."

As for the citywide picture, in June, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy promised a to have a beefed-up school safety plan citywide by September. Despite repeated requests to the Police Department, the details of that new plan were not available and it wasn't clear if it has been implemented yet.

CPS officials said they've expanded the "Safe Passage Program" to nine new schools this fall and they've installed security cameras in 14 new schools. They said both of those measures have been proven to reduce school violence.

The "Safe Passage Program" started last fall at 23 high schools in high-risk communities.

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