Monday, June 18, 2018
News Roundup

Chicago stands watch as kids return to school, across gang boundaries

CHICAGO — Busy, unfamiliar streets were made a bit friendlier Monday, the first day of school in Chicago, thanks to hundreds of newly hired safety guards. But some parents expressed doubt the effort would protect their children, who now must cross gang boundaries to get to their new classrooms after their old ones closed.

The Safe Passage program guards in neon vests lined city streets in neighborhoods with closed schools, the most visible sign of what's at stake for the nation's third-largest school district, which is struggling academically and financially.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called Monday "a new beginning" for the district, planned to join students walking to O'Toole Elementary in the West Englewood neighborhood on the city's South Side.

The Chicago Board of Education — hand-picked by Emanuel — voted in May to close about 50 elementary schools and programs, a move Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said would allow the district to improve academics and help pay down a $1 billion budget deficit.

Critics of the school closings said minority students were disproportionately affected and that many students would now have to cross dangerous gang boundaries. Some families sued, but a federal judge refused to halt the plan.

On Monday, concerned parents took time off of work or recruited family members to make sure students arrived at their new schools.

Annie Stoball walked her granddaughter, 9-year-old Kayla Porter, to Gresham Elementary School in the Gresham neighborhood, about 4 miles south of O'Toole Elementary.

Stoball said she's skeptical Chicago's first-day show of force will last.

"I think it's just show-and-tell right now," Stoball said. "Five, six weeks down the road, let's see what's going to happen."

One of the guards in the Gresham neighborhood, 57-year-old Rochelle Nicholson, said their presence is reassuring to students and is needed "for the children's safety."

There have been a number of shootings along the Safe Passage routes this summer, including one in the Uptown neighborhood on the North Side last Monday. Five were injured and one of the men died last week.

Jennifer Press, who drove her 4-year-old daughter to a preschool program at Gresham Elementary, said gang violence is a concern for her. She has two other young children.

"They will ride to school for the rest of their lives, as long as I'm in Chicago," Press said.

CPS hired an additional 600 workers at a rate of $10 per hour to supplement an existing program known as Safe Passage. The newly hired workers include includes Chicago firefighters and even security guards from local public libraries.

"Safe Passage is about more than just building a route to school," Emanuel told about 1,000 people during a training session last week. "It is about building a route to college, career and beyond, so that once our kids get to school, they get the world-class education they deserve.

"That's a new chapter," Emanuel said. "There is a new beginning."

The Safe Passage program was already was in place at 35 high schools and four elementary schools — buildings district officials say have seen a 7 percent increase in attendance and a 20 percent decrease in crime since Safe Passage began.

Chicago police worked with residents and CPS to map out routes in 52 of the so-called "welcoming schools" — the ones taking in students from the closed schools. Bright yellow signs have been posted along the routes and maps were distributed to parents and guardians.

Emanuel also deployed city departments to repair sidewalks, replace street lights, paint over graffiti and board up nearly 300 abandoned buildings along the routes.

Schools themselves also saw improvements, including upgraded air conditioning and new libraries and computer labs, even though CPS in recent months laid off more than 3,000 teachers and staff members due to budget issues.

Comments
Pinellas protesters: Stop separating families at the border

Pinellas protesters: Stop separating families at the border

Protests were held on both ends of Pinellas County on Monday in opposition to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents as they seek asylum at the U.S. border."Children are not pawns," "No kids in cages" and "I would...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Two people drowned and another suffered life-threatening injuries in the waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.Investigators said all three cases appear to be accidents, but the incidents stand as a reminder that summer, with vacation ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

An Orlando private equity firm has purchased lease-to-own business Rent-A-Center in a deal valued at more than $1 billion.Vintage Capital Management put a bid in for the company on Friday: $15 per share, $1 per share above its previous offer. Rent-A-...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

One of Florida’s biggest draws is also one if its biggest liabilities — its coastline. A new report projects that Florida is at the greatest risk of any state for tidal flooding caused by rising sea levels. And Tampa Bay faces some of the greatest ri...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

SEMINOLE — She was 22 when deputies said a man forced her at knifepoint into the woods off Seminole Boulevard and sexually battered her in February 1987.The case went cold, but now the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said it has arrested the man it ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Iceland World Cup Fever … catch it!

Iceland World Cup Fever … catch it!

TAMPA — Iceland isn't what it used to be. Literally. The Nordic island country is shrinking, what with global warming. Iceland's glaciers are getting smaller. If you took all that ice and laid it end to end, well, you clearly have nothing bette...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

TAMPA — Police are seeking the public’s help in locating the driver who fatally struck a pedestrian on Sunday night and then drove off.The incident took place at 9:15 p.m. near the intersection of N Nebraska Avenue and E Linebaugh Avenue.No details a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
St. Petersburg teen, seven months pregnant, dies in Pasco crash

St. Petersburg teen, seven months pregnant, dies in Pasco crash

HUDSON — A 16-year-old St. Petersburg teen who was seven months pregnant was fatally injured in a crash Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The incident took place at 9:11 p.m. on Little Road south of Hudson Avenue. The teen, Emily ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Mazzaro’s gets ready to reopen

Mazzaro’s gets ready to reopen

day after an electrical fire broke out in its dry goods warehouse Friday night.Dominic Horwath, a grocery manager at Mazzaro’s on 22nd Ave. N, said staffers spent Monday and the weekend moving things into other warehouses.The damage from the fire at ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

WashingtonPentagon suspends August drills with South KoreaThe Pentagon on Monday formally suspended a major military exercise planned for August with South Korea, a much-anticipated move stemming from President Donald Trump’s nuclear summit with Nort...
Updated: 4 hours ago