Safe Passage workers celebrated as schools face an uncertain future

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CHICAGO -- Today's rally at Chicago State honored the 1,300 Safe Passage workers who spend five hours a day, five days a week to keep 75,000 CPS students safe on their way to and from school.

In the past week, it was a Safe Passage worker's quick action after talking to a second grader that led to the recovery of a weapon near one campus. Another worker de-escalated a fight between two adults. Earlier this year, another still applied pressure to slow the bleeding of a gunshot victim while an ambulance was en route.

For the past four years, Thomas Hensley has provided safe passage to and from Bond Elementary in Englewood. It's not easy work.

“There was shooting going on and I had to duck and run and call inside the school to make sure everybody was safe inside the school first because schools aren't bulletproof ,” Hensley remembers.

Recently, however, CPS principal offices seem to come with a revolving door. The state's budget crisis has been a driving factor behind the resignations of principals at Foreman High, Lake View High and Lane Tech, among others. Today's event is just one of many across CPS to boost morale.

But Governor Rauner's comments yesterday describing some Chicago schools as akin to crumbling prisons don’t help, says CPS CEO Forest Claypool.

“He's obviously a very smart man and we would like to help educate him by showing him what's going on in our schools,” Claypool said.

Rauner clarified his remarks during an appearance in Peoria.

"No student, no child of Illinois should have to go to school in some of those facilities; they have metal on the windows, they're dark, they're depressing, they're crumbling, they have metal detectors on every door," Rauner said.

Mayor Emanuel cheered the Safe Passage program, the schools, and Chicago's kids.

“Our kids are carrying the rest of the state academically on their backs right now and I'm tired of people saying something about the children of the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said.

Every school day an army of safe passage workers helps thousands of Chicago Public Schools students get to and from school safely.