PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Amid the crisis of gun violence in the city, the School District of Philadelphia is rolling out new safety plans. It’s a community effort to support vulnerable students and concerned parents.
“We now have our children and our school leaders going to school scared,” Office of School Safety Chief Kevin Bethel said. “That’s just not acceptable.”READ MORE: Woman Assaulted By Juvenile Suspects On SEPTA Train Tuesday Night
Unacceptable fear and unimaginable levels of gun violence have seeped into school corridors in Philadelphia. It’s forcing safety officials to layer up plans to keep students safe.
“While we have always worked to have our schools to be safe havens for our students and staff, it’s becoming increasingly clear that additional efforts are necessary to make the streets around our schools safer,” Superintendent Dr. William Hite said.
Bethel said school district officers will be working in conjunction with Philadelphia police, and increasing patrols in high risk high crime areas at the beginning and end of the school day.
“We collectively created safety zones around 25 of our schools,” Bethel said “Those 25 safety zones represent about 38 schools so I won’t get into the deployment that is there the Philadelphia Police Department but have activated that strategy starting Monday.”READ MORE: Police Investigating After ATM Explodes At Kensington Gas Station
In addition to an increased police presence, the school district is launching a new program involving anti-violence community groups called The Safe Path Program. The program includes trained groups who will work outside around school perimeters and have radios connected to police in case of emergency. They will also be paid a small stipend and be equipped with safety vests.
“We’re hopeful we’ll be able to bring in community organizations to work with our school leaders,” Bethel said. “Our school leaders will take a forefront in selecting those community members because they’re in the community. They know who they want to work with. We will put it through an RFP process and go through the process of selecting different groups.”
School officials hope added adult supervision coupled with an added police presence will break the cycle of gun violence surrounding schools.
“We think those visual presence on those corridors will help settle those activities that we’re seeing,” Bethel said.
School safety officials have received multi-year grants to help fund The Safe Path Program. They hope to have it up and running before the end of the school year.MORE NEWS: 3 Injured, Including Teen, After Gas Explosion Inside South Philadelphia Home
This couldn’t come soon enough. Wednesday’s off-campus shooting homicide of a 16-year-old was the third district student killed as the result of gunfire this month.