Workers Hired For CPS 'Safe Passage' Routes Already Quitting

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 4, 2013 1:30PM

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett declared before the new school year started that Safe Passage routes for students traveling from 50 shuttered schools to their new receiving schools would be “ready by Day One.” They were but it’s Day Two and beyond that are proving to be a problem.

A CBS 2 report indicates the school district is running into problems staffing Safe Passage routes one week into the new school year. CBS 2 found street corners uncovered by workers and, in one case, half of the staff assigned to one route quitting their jobs. A check of one route at 119th and State streets found no workers at the intersection to escort students to school. One of the vendors hired to maintain the route, Nehemiah Roseland Ceasefire, said 13 of 26 workers hired to man the route quit the day after school started.

Bob Jackson, a supervisor at Nehemiah Roseland Ceasefire, blamed the weather.

“Last week was a very hot week,” he said. “A lot of people have health issues and were not ready to be out in the sun.”

“Some called a half hour before the shift started. some just didn’t return.”

The low wages people earn monitoring Safe Passage routes may also be a contributing factor, if not the primary reason. Jackson and supervisors at the 17 other Safe Passage vendors hired by CPS to implement the program said they have plenty of reserve workers on call to staff the routes.

The report aired hours after Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy proclaimed the first week of Safe Passage a success while touting Chicago’s lower 2013 homicide tally.

“We’re making progress, step by step by step,” McCarthy said on the CBS 2 Morning News on Tuesday. “Over the last 11 months, we’ve got more than 100 less murders than we had for the same timeframe a year before that; we’ve had almost 500 less shooting victims than we had the year before that.”

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“If we keep measuring day-by-day, if we don’t give those numbers any context, then obviously it becomes what’s going on, but what’s going on has been a problem in the city for a very long time,” McCarthy said. “We’ve set up systems to address it. We have a more holistic approach to crime reduction. It’s not just about what the Police Department’s doing, it’s about community involvement.”

Eight people were killed and another 23 wounded in shootings across Chicago over the Labor Day holiday, including a 19-year-old man wounded on the 1500 block of South Tripp, the same block as Charles Evans Hughes Elementary School on the West side. It’s the fourth shooting on a Safe Passage route in three weeks.