Summer Safe Passage Program Growing in Chicago

(WBEZ / Flickr)(WBEZ / Flickr)

The city of Chicago is expanding its Summer Safe Passage program this year, adding 10 new park locations and doubling the number of weekdays the program will be available.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Saturday the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Schools are partnering again this year on the summer program, which seeks to help ensure safe travel for thousands of youth participating in recreational programs and sports leagues.

“Every child deserves a safe place to play and just be a kid,” Emanuel said in a press release. “We all share in the responsibility to make certain our kids are safe as they engage in recreation at their local park. With the expansion of this program, we are doubling down on a model that we know will keep our young people safe.”

This year’s program is expanding from two days of service per week up to four and will employ 250 workers throughout 31 park locations. The city says that’s an increase of 50 percent over the 21 parks included in last summer’s original $112,500 pilot program.

The Park District says the budget for this year's program is about $283,000.

Summer Safe Passage will serve teens participating both in the Park District’s Summer Teen Sports League – which runs from July 11 through Aug. 18 – and the year-round Windy City Hoops program.

“The Summer Safe Passage program is indicative of the type of 'all-hands' effort we need to make our communities safer,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement. “By coming together to let children travel safely to Chicago parks and summer recreational programs, we are giving them a positive alternative to the streets.”

According to the city, the Park District will cover the program’s cost, while CPS’ Office of Safety and Security will train workers in “relationship-building skills, de-escalation strategies and knowledge of other safety protocols."

CPS began its own Safe Passage program in 2009. Last fall, the district expanded the number of schools covered up to 142, hiring nearly 1,300 personnel through about two dozen community organizations. Those employees work five days each week and must pass a district-administered background check before being hired.

The school district says it will continue partnering with community-based organizations to hire summer employees, as it does with Safe Passage during the school year, and all workers will be held to the same hiring standards as they are in the regular program.

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