New school year puts safety in the spotlight - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

New school year puts safety in the spotlight

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FOX 32 Photo | Craig Wall FOX 32 Photo | Craig Wall
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

School is back in session for 400,000 Chicago Public School students. This year, the city is taking additional steps to make it safer for them to get to and from school.

In the city, the Safe Passage program is expanding and officials are hoping for a repeat of last year's safety record.

As students got out of school Tuesday and headed home from Chopin Elementary in Ukrainian Village, parents were on hand to walk them home.

Many of the children have to walk along Safe Passage routes. The program started at Chopin Elementary last year. That's when the city doubled the number of schools in the program because the CPS consolidation closings forced many students to walk through neighborhoods deemed unsafe due to gang borders.

"I have every safety concern. Shootings, you name it," mother Sandra Almodovar said.

This year, the city has contributed $1 million to the program and the state of Illinois pledged $10 million. The funds will allow Safe Passage to cover 40 more schools, for a total of 133.

CPS Chief Safety and Security Officer Jadine Chou says the safety measures are a sign the city is being proactive about fighting crime.

"Everything we try to do in safety is to be productive and get in front of situations. This investment that the city and the state are both making are a sign that everybody wants to be proactive," Chou said.

Safe Passage officers say the extra manpower on the streets helps make students feel safe.

"The kids love when you sit up here and talk to them and interact with them, they feel safe. A lot of kids didn't have that before. There were always afraid to walk the street, but not anymore," Officer Margarita Melendez said.

Melendez has been a safe passage worker for six years. She and her colleagues are trained to watch for suspicious activity and respond accordingly.

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