June 24, 2013
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced today that CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is recommending to the Board of Education this Wednesday the expansion of its Safe Passage program to include 19 new community-based vendors. These vendors will hire an additional 600 Safe Passage workers for the 2013-2014 school year as part of the program’s expansion to 51 Welcoming Schools this fall in order to provide a smooth and safe transition for the 30,000 students at all Sending and Welcoming Schools.
“Student safety is among our top priorities,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “Expanding the successful Safe Passage program to include next year’s welcoming schools is one of several steps we’re taking to create safe environments in and around our schools. Safe Passage workers are the eyes and ears of their communities and will be our partners in providing safe routes to and from school every day for students.”
CPS launched the Safe Passage Program in 2009 to help improve safety for students traveling to and from school. The program engages community organizations as vendors that hire community-based watchers who provide an adult presence along pre-defined safe routes. These organizations have demonstrated that they have a strong working knowledge of the communities they serve.
For the upcoming school transitions, CPS and fellow City sister agencies have enhanced the Safe Passage program even further by launching a new Safe Passage working group that will oversee improvements along these safe routes in the area of addressing issues that may exist such as troubled hotspots, abandoned buildings, vacant lots and traffic concerns. This group meets regularly to review the required work orders and ensure they are being handled.
In addition, CPS and CPD have held 50 school-specific parent safety planning meetings for the parents of students who attend both Sending and Welcoming schools. These meetings have allowed school officials and CPD to gain valuable feedback from parents on the proposed safety plans – feedback that is being incorporated into each individual plan.
These partnerships and ongoing parent engagement will only further improve upon the successful Safe Passage program which has 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.
There are currently 10 Safe Passage vendors serving 35 high schools and four elementary schools. More than 600 Safe Passage workers currently serve schools enrolled in the program. CPS will nearly double the program as it expands the program to 51 welcoming schools this fall at an investment of $7.7 million.
The new community-based Safe Passage vendors are being recommended to the Board by CEO Byrd-Bennett after an extensive and competitive request for proposals (RFP) process. If the Board approves the new vendors, they will begin hiring 600 workers to staff the new routes, which are currently being developed and will be finalized before school starts in August. This and all board items will be posted today at 10:30 AM to the Board’s web site: http://www.cpsboe.org/.
In addition to expanding Safe Passage, the district’s Student Safety Transition plan incorporates the following supports and services:
- School-based Security Model: CPS will supplement all welcoming schools with an extra security officer and conduct training for security personnel with a focus on student integration. In most instances, security officers will follow their students to their new welcoming school to ease the transition by maintaining established relationships.
- Expand and Improve Safety Technology: CPS will review the needs of welcoming schools, and technology, such as security cameras, alarm systems, and entry screening equipment, will be installed as needed.
- Welcoming Environment at Schools: Welcoming schools will hold orientation and student/family integration events during the summer to introduce and welcome new students and parents before the school year begins. These schools will also create student support groups, as well as engage students in additional social-emotional supports that help students build their conflict resolution skills starting this summer and throughout the school year – proven techniques already used in CPS schools.
Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.