Safe passage plan anticipates new CPS school year

July 26, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The students of the former Yale Elementary will be walking to Harvard come the new school year, a walk that will present some vacant Englewood buildings, lots and other concerns.

Their urban path, in about a month, will be lined with yellow-vested safe passage workers. They are always to be within line of sight of each other. They are not armed. They do have phones. They are to watch and listen, and - when necessary - diffuse conflict.

"Just stand here. Be alert and make sure everything is safe," said Darrelle Covington, safe passage worker.

"It's not just standing on the corner. It's engaging. Being alert," said Henry English, Black United Fund.

The Black United Fund is among 19 vendors hiring new safe passage workers. There's been no shortage of interest.

"Today we just did another four interviews and they were really good, so we selected them," said a Black United Fund employee.

It's a job that requires working a split shift, with a lot of standing in all kinds of weather, knowledge of the neighborhood, an aptitude for conflict resolution, passing a criminal background check, and the pay is $10 an hour.

The school system is hiring 600 new safe passage monitors, and 1,700 have already applied.

The hirees will soon begin their training. They are to be friendly watchdogs who are to call police if trouble happens. Their own physical intervention is discouraged.

"A big part of that training is going to include how do you detect an incident before it happens. How do you be proactive," said Jadine Chou, security chief, Chicago Public Schools.

When Yale goes to Harvard next month, Black United, an experienced vendor, will provide the people, and a plan for the neighborhood to buy-in to safe passage.

"Because it takes all of us to make sure the kids get safely from school to home and back," said English.

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