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Illinois to Spend $10 Million to Expand Chicago's Safe Passage Program

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Update: Newark, N.J., announced today the creation of its own Safe Passages program. Details at the bottom of this post.

The state of Illinois will spend $10 million to expand Chicago Public Schools' Safe Passage program, which trains adults to monitor designated walking routes to the city's schools. The employees monitor traffic, watch for threats like gang activity, and report incidents to authorities.

The new investment is expected to employ 600 new workers, Gov. Pat Quinn said in an announcement. That will help add 27 schools to the program and expand routes to 93 schools that currently participate. From the release:

"The Safe Passage program was launched in 2009 as a collaborative effort between the Chicago Public School system, the Chicago Police Department and community organizations in Chicago's South and West side neighborhoods to address concerns about student safety traveling to and from school.

Following CPS closures last year, the district expanded the Safe Passage Program to support more students during their transition to new schools. According to CPS, the program led to a 20 percent decline in criminal incidents around Safe Passage schools, a 27 percent drop in incidents among students, and a 7 percent increase in attendance over the past two years in high schools that currently have the Safe Passage program.

The $10 million investment for the Safe Passage program comes through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity."

Education Week covered the opening of those new routes last year:

"Concerns that gang-related violence in the city would be exacerbated by the consolidations or closures this year of 49 of the city's more than 600 schools prompted a surge in community support and attention, and the expansion of a school district program designed to help students get safely to and from school.

More than 57 miles of Chicago's streets were patrolled by some 1,200 staff and volunteers with the district's Safe Passage program as the school year began on Monday."

Newark's Program

Also today, Newark, N.J., announced that it is creating a "new transportation option geared toward increasing student safety while offering added convenience and accessibility for families impacted by One Newark." (One Newark is the name of a district reorganization plan).

Newark's new program will provide shuttle buses that will "pick up and drop off students at one of eight newly established Central Hubs, which will be staffed by security guards and teacher's aides," a press release says. "Safe Routes maps that highlight the locations of key resources like crossing guards and police stations have also been developed to help families identify the safest courses of travel for students walking to and from the Central Hubs. NPS will continue to provide NJ Transit bus tickets as an option to students who meet the distance eligibility requirements."

"Throughout the One Newark enrollment process, parents have clearly stated that a major concern is transporting children to and from new school locations. We've listened carefully and worked with the district to develop a transportation plan that will help address the needs of families," Rashon Hasan, rresident of the school advisory board, said in the release.

Photo: Paul Bridges (right), a "Safe Passage" worker, looks over a stretch of Pulaski Road on Chicago's West Side as two students head home on Monday. --Philip Scott Andrews for Education Week

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