Chicago has been making big headlines for both its teacher layoffs and the city’s rising murder rate. More than 1,500 shooting incidents have already rocked the city this year.
For the last six years, the Safe Passage program has helped to keep kids safe during their commutes. It began in 35 city schools, but as 50 Chicago public schools were shut down in 2013, more and more schools were added as students were forced to go to schools farther away.
By 2014, there were already 133 schools in the city participating in the program, and this year seven more were added.
The safety officers wear bright vests and escort the children along their routes.
"It's good to see the vests out here, it makes the kids feel more comfortable going to school," Quierra Hardy, a mother of two students, told Reuters. "As far as gangs, it might make them think twice when they see so many witnesses out here."
While the effectiveness of the $17.8 million program remains unclear, Jadine Chou, chief security officer for Chicago Public Schools, told Reuters that there has not been a single incident with a child being hurt on an operational Safe Passage route.
In addition, an analysis by DNAInfo found that crime along the routes did in fact drop along the 64 routes they observed during the last school year.
Not all parents are happy about the initiative, however.
"I appreciate the program, but we can't afford it. I would prefer to pay teachers and classroom assistants rather than people who can just stand guard," Jeanette Taylor-Ramann, president of the school council at Mollison Elementary, told Reuters.
It seems that when it comes to safety versus more teachers, safety of the children has won.