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CPS ‘Safe Passage’ gets mixed reaction

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Updated: September 11, 2013 6:12AM

They’ve seen the bright yellow “Safe Passage” signs lining streets throughout the city.

And on Friday, parents, politicians and students saw the publicly released routes Chicago Public Schools officials say will ensure the safety of kids walking to new schools.

Some Chicago alderman, parents and community members reacted with criticism while others offered praise for the new paths — lined with chaperones — around closing schools to the welcoming schools.

“I don’t think they really thought it out ... I think it’s more of a lets hurry up and get this done so when school starts we can say we have this,” said parent Torrence Shorter, whose children will attend Ward Elementary School on the West Side.

Shorter, 40, lives across the street from the school and he’s concerned about students who will be walking. There’s heavy traffic on Central Park, which is part of the route. And instead of Ohio, Shorter had hoped CPS would suggest Huron would be the cross street kids would use in order to “bypass” gang turfs.

CPS security chief Jadine Chou said the 53 new routes were chosen based on where kids lived and the path they’d likely take to school. In Ward’s case, kids likely wouldn’t walk an extra block north then backtrack, she said.

“We’ve been working very closely with Chicago police and we feel comfortable that these routes will be fine,” Chou said.

A few miles south, Darlene Williams, 52, was not pleased to hear the route for kids that used to go to Paderewski Elementary Learning Academy will include a walk on Millard instead of Lawndale, like she and others had suggested. CPS’ Chou called the route “straightforward” as the receiving schools are closer to the suggested route.

On the South Side, parent Lillian Allen, 37, said she’s “glad” the “Safe Passage” workers in yellow vests will be out watching over her two sons as they walk from the bus stop at State down 27th Street to Drake Elementary School.

“It will cut down on the after school or before school bantering that may go on,” she said. “To me this may prevent a kid from being hurt.”

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, has only one school closing in his South Side ward: Morgan Elementary School, and the plan he said he has seen looks solid.

“Overall, I thought it was a sound plan and they said they would tweak it, if need be, going forward. At least in my ward, I think they’re ready,” Brookins said.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) also has only one school closing in his South Side ward. It will force students at shuttered Yale Elementary School to travel about five blocks to Harvard Elementary School of Excellence.

“The Safe Passage route that’s posted is on main thoroughfares, and children typically don’t take that route to school. Children wander. They walk through neighborhoods and side-streets,” Sawyer said.

But CPS’ Chou said most parents said they wanted their kids to walk on main roads because “their children would be more visible.”

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said he hasn’t had time to closely study the “Safe Passage” routes for the three school closings in his West Side ward.

But he credited CPS with “putting forth a good effort” — by hiring 600 “people from the community who know the kids” and are in a better position to protect them.

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