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Student Safety a Challenge as Districts Close Schools

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When Chicago decided earlier this year to close 49 elementary schools, school safety was at the top of the list of reasons why parents and community members thought they shouldn't. The city was wracked by gun violence last year, and it's unclear whether the murder rate will drop this year.

Student safety has also been at the center of objections to school closures in Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.

In response, Chicago created an elaborate plan for ensuring students' safety to and from school. One facet of that program is "safe passage," which would add parent and community patrols on students' routes to school.

Over at the District Dossier blog, my colleagues note that the district is in the midst of accommodating 11,000 requests from parents who want the district's safe passage services.

Next month, the district will hire 600 adults to staff the "safe passage" routes the nation's third-largest district is still hammering out with parent and community input.

In addition, my colleagues write, the district has already been towing abandoned cars, removing graffiti, trimming trees, mowing vacant lots, repairing broken street lights, and conducting rodent abatement on routes students might take to school.

The 403,000-student district decided to close low-performing, underenrolled schools to address a budget deficit.

Earlier this year, District of Columbia public schools came up with its own plan for ensuring students' safe travel to and from schools after a set of closures was announced in that district.

One school, Johnson Middle, was kept open despite its low enrollment because the district worried about its ability to ensure student safety.

In the 138,000-student Philadelphia district this week, some parents and school employees began a hunger strike they say will continue until the district rehires aides and other staff laid off because of the closures in that district—workers who would otherwise be on hand to ensure students' safety, NBC Philadelphia reports.

The district is eliminating all assistant principals, secretaries, and guidance counselors, plus 700 teachers and more than 1,200 aides.

Follow Rules for Engagement on Twitter @Rulz4Engagement and Education Week Staff Writer Nirvi Shah on Twitter @NirviShah.

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