D.C. is spending more than $4 million hiring hundreds of people to help ensure kids get to and from school safely.
Irwin Royster has been making sure kids get to and from school safely for three years as part of the Safe Passages pilot program that puts adults on the streets around schools in high-crime areas.
“Folks are along the streets talking to kids as they move to and from school. So it starts in the neighborhood, and it moves to the Metro, and then it moves to the schools, so they can have folks they can talk to that are guiding them along the way,” Royster said.
Safe Passages has been staffed by volunteers, but Friday the District announced it’s putting money into the program.
“We know when they feel safe, they’re going to do better, and they do better in school,” Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Chris Geldart said.
The money will be used to hire 215 adults from the community to be on the streets when kids are.
“What’s most significant about this work is that it’s embedded in our communities; it is community based. These are caring and trusted adults that students know and interact with and will respond to. This work is important,” Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn said.
Royster is thrilled the program is finally going to be fully funded. He recalled one incident that was stopped before it got out of hand.
“We saw a swell of youth in a particular area,” he said. “And we contacted our partners to say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ And we found out something that was brewing, and we kind of deescalated that brewing just by talking to youth.”
The Safe Passage program will focus on 47 schools across the District. It is modeled after a program that is being used in several big cities across the country.