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Welcoming Schools To Have 'Children Ambassadors' For Kids From Closed Schools

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As Chicago Public Schools officials get closer to closing more than 50 elementary schools, they were releasing new details Tuesday on how they plan to tackle one of the most sensitive issues: blending two schools into one.

CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker reports school administrators might think they have answers on consolidating schools, but parents still have lots of concerns.

CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett toured Helen Hefferan Elementary School on Tuesday.

The school has several empty classrooms that will be put to good use in the fall, when 231 students from nearby Nathan Goldblatt Elementary School will be transferred to Hefferan, which has 251 students now.

Merging the two student bodies into one big happy family will be the challenge.

"If you get cousins who have to come over and stay for a while, you can't just not let them sleep in the bed or not let them have a place at the table; it becomes that blended family," Byrd-Bennett said.

Byrd-Bennett said the plan to blend the families includes numerous activities for parents and students at both sending and receiving schools.

"They have children ambassadors who are actually reaching out to their peers, grade peers, at the sending school. They're sending post cards, individual post cards, to each child who will be coming, saying why it's a great thing for them to come," Byrd-Bennett said.

Most parents at Hefferan have been extending a welcome hand to Goldblatt, but some are hesitant.

"I think I'm going to transfer my babies out," said Hefferan parent Mira Williams. She said she's worried about "kids bullying kids here."

Hefferan parents weren't the only ones with concerns. Goldblatt's parents, like Tommie Wells, also said they're worried about safety.

"I've been walking through here before and they start shooting," Wells said of the walk between the two schools. "From here to there, a lot can happen in a little while."

Heffren administrators said they are confident they can prevent any conflicts between students, and they plan to beef up security.

"That is what Safe Passage is for. They're going to have people along the path of the children coming from Goldblatt to Hefferan," Hefferan Principal Jacqueline Hearns said. "And we have parent volunteers that we ask to remain around the school, to make sure that our children are safe as they come into the building."

The safety plan at Hefferan, as well as other welcoming schools, includes using parents as volunteers to patrol the school grounds.

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