By: Jazmyne Walker
WCW Staff Writer
Two months into the school year and the palate for CPS’ Safe Passage is organized and seemingly consistent. CPS has gone through numerous changes in closing old schools and opening new schools with a prepared Five Year District Action Plan called, “The Next Generation: Chicago’s Children”.
Chicagoans get to witness and be a part of the new CPS structures. Last year Chicagoans watched as Safe Passage workers stood untiringly in Chicago’s vicious winter weather – recently watching them stand in the scorching heat mornings and afternoons as CPS students go to and from school.
Chicago residents from all over the city have applied for Safe Passage positions and like any large employer, have had its upsets.
“On our end and the community’s end, I’ve seen a lot but you can’t really expect this to be a glamorous experience. The pay we receive to watch students come to and from school in Chicago’s most dangerous areas is ridiculous. This is the west side and bullying goes to a completely different level,” said a Safe Passage worker who prefers to keep their identity withheld.
There have been numerous reports concerning the Safe passage workers as well as their safety. At the start of the school year, 13 of 26 workers quit from a south side vendor causing certain “danger-marked” areas under-supervised.
At the beginning of this month a safe passage worker was forced to flee her working post after a vehicle drove up and opened fire. In mid-September a Safe Passage worker was arrested on battery and identity theft charges after attacking a parent on two separate occasions, while still in uniform.
In an attempt to create safer environments for students, CPS has expanded and added to their program. Since the last school-year CPS has expanded their Safe Passage program by doubling their 600 plus workers providing supervision to 51 new welcoming schools.
The Safe Passage program currently serves 91 Chicago Public Schools and is working closely with Chicago’s Police Department in assuring safety. One very obvious addition is the Safe Passage signs posted all throughout Chicago – almost like a lead to safe streets and routes home for students.
According to CPS’ website, “the successful Safe Passage program 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.”
The actual hiring process is not conducted by CPS but through CPS-assigned vendors throughout the city. Each vendor has a different hiring process but they all conduct under a strict background policy. Workers work 5 hours a day, 5 days a weeks and are paid $10 an hour.
“Thank God no one from my section has had any major problems with violence like what I’ve heard in the news but I wouldn’t even be surprised if it did happen. One thing I could understand is that I know why they want us to be familiar with the area we work; I know these [children], I know there parents and because of that, I wouldn’t dare let anything happen to them, paycheck or not.”