CPS plans more security, upgraded equipment in consolidated schools
BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK Education Reporter email@example.com March 15, 2013 3:35AM
Updated: April 16, 2013 4:14PM
Chicago Public Schools’ plans to keep children safe as it moves them to new schools in September include ramping up its Safe Passages program, the district announced Thursday.
CPS also will upgrade equipment in the buildings receiving children from shuttered schools, invest in summer programs and activities that will help blend cultures, and add at least one new security guard to each consolidated school, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said. When possible, security staff from closed schools will follow students for the first year, she said.
Safety concerns dominated the discussion at community meetings on school closures, Byrd-Bennett said. Parents said, “We’re not as concerned about our student’s safety in our school building, but it’s the movement in our neighborhoods, block by block, our children getting to school and our children needing to return home,” Byrd-Bennett said.
Most of the district’s safety plans involve spending money, though neither Byrd-Bennett nor her chief safety and security officer could estimate how much any of the plans would cost. They had no estimate of how much is budgeted for the safety plans because the final needs of each school and the number of schools that will close have not yet been determined. The existing Safe Passages program costs about $8.2 million for guards around 35 CPS high schools; the average cost of a security officer is $50,000, CPS said.
Byrd-Bennett says she needs to close a number of schools this year because the district is staring down a giant budget gap estimated at $1 billion, and too many buildings have too few children to run efficiently.
She is considering a list of 129 elementary schools — out of more than 600 in the district — from which to select the schools that will not reopen in the fall. Her decision is due March 31.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who supports a moratorium on all school closings, said the union proposed the idea of blending school cultures early.
“One of things we talked about was having school communities have relationships with each other before school starts,” she said, “so children don’t feel like they’re being abandoned and other children don’t feel like they’re being invaded.”