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Countdown Day 31: Safe corridors the goal of new citywide campaign, WalkSafePHL

By the Notebook on Aug 9, 2013 02:05 PM

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.

This feature, appearing each weekday, is an effort to highlight developments and motivate action as we get closer to the beginning of the school year. We encourage readers to send us information about both concerns and breakthroughs to

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Comments (8)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 9, 2013 4:43 pm
This is an incredibly important policy, making it so that students in all neighborhoods can safely walk to school.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 9, 2013 5:32 pm
There is funding to pay for students to walk around the city and identify dangerous walking routes but school may not even open. Who funds TWIS? Who funds Education Works? The priorities here are scrambled. An incredibly important policy might be funding plain old vanilla public education first, then the frills later. What a joke.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 9, 2013 5:46 pm
Do the volunteers have background checks? This is a serious question. How can we get an answer to this question? This effort to supervise our children with free help cannot become an opportunity for predatory behavior. If an answer does not appear in the Notebook from a credible source, this question will go to the Department of Human Services.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 9, 2013 5:35 pm
Okay, we don't have money for counselors, teachers or non-teaching staff; but the School District of Philadelphia has found funds to support fall sports. I believe sports are important and want to know who plans these things. When my tax portion is submitted for education, I expect education to be provided. We have multiple Department of Recreation sites around the City of Philadelphia and leagues for sports. Hello, could this money have been used to bring back additional teachers, vice principals, NTAs -- I want to know how much the insurance is for these sporting activities and the cost factor. Hite just threatened not to open schools, but we have sports, unbelievable.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 9, 2013 6:58 pm
So who gets the contracts for the cameras, surveillance equipment and technical support???? And how much would that cost???
Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 9, 2013 9:12 pm
“Routes will be lined with volunteers to ensure student safety,” said Nutter. Yes, on the first day of school. Not quite so many at the end of the first week. By October, one or two hardy souls will show up and may stick it out through the year in spite of the frustration and weariness that has overtaken them. This is our big plan. This is how Mayor Nutter would have had his own child escorted to school. Pathetic. Member of Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS)
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on August 10, 2013 4:44 pm
Tell me who will volunteer - daily - for this position??? Lame plan from a lame "leader" Hite. You know full well this will never work. How many children have to be put in danger for you to take responsibility for all the SDP students ?
Submitted by tom-104 on August 11, 2013 12:19 am
Chicago is playing the same game. Who says this whole thing is not being coordinated? It straight out of the Broad School Closings handbook.

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