by Mark McHugh
Student safety inside and outside the classroom has been a community concern as the District works on the transitions for students from 24 closing schools in the midst of a profound budget crisis. In response, Town Watch Integrated Services (TWIS) is spearheading an initiative called WalkSafePHL, intended to ensure the safety of students travelling to and from school.
The effort was the subject of a press conference Friday morning involving Mayor Michael Nutter, Superintendent William Hite, and Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Cynthia Dorsey. They are billing the campaign as “the city's strategy for ensuring students are able to travel safely to and from school this fall.”
To work toward a safe environment, TWIS collaborated with several local nonprofits, including the Bicycle Coalition, Build On, and Education Works, as well as the District, the mayor’s office and both SEPTA and Philadelphia police.
Particularly dangerous or busy routes were flagged by TWIS and the Bicycle Coalition to identify the areas of greatest need.
“Routes will be lined with volunteers to ensure student safety,” said Nutter.
The organizations involved in the program recruited volunteers who will be present before and after school to oversee student transit, officials said. The Philadelphia Police Department will be deployed along some routes in the mornings and afternoons, according to Dorsey.
Additionally, Nutter said that distributing cameras and evaluating surveillance systems will be a District priority.
EducationWorks, a nonprofit that helps prepare Philadelphia youth for future employment, was instrumental in organizing students to work on the program.
“We have over 200 students that worked throughout the city, and we had about 80 working on this project, specifically,” said Joseph Brand, an EducationWorks staff coordinator.
“Students recruited volunteers, identified safe havens, did walkability audits, and designed advertising material.”
The city is soliciting additional volunteers on a WalkSafePHL website.
Mark McHugh is an intern at the Notebook.
The School District of Philadelphia faces an unprecedented situation – uncertainty over whether it will be in a position to open safe and functioning schools in September.
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