A week ahead of students’ return to Philadelphia classrooms, the city school district announced security measures to protect both students and staff this upcoming year.
Philadelphia’s Office of Children and Families aims to engage more than 6,400 students in 129 programs this fall, and engage hundreds more through the Parks and Recreation department, the Free Library, and Department of Human Services programs, the mayor’s office said Monday.
“We invest in a variety of programs because decades of research confirm that students who participate are more likely to be engaged in learning,” said Vanessa Garrett Harley, the deputy mayor for Children and Families. “They are also likely to have better school attendance, increased levels of physical activities, and are less likely to become victims of violence or be involved in violent activity.”
The majority of the programs will be located in schools and offered to all grade levels, OST said in a release.
The Philadelphia Police Department will also continue to collaborate with the School District of Philadelphia, they said, to ensure a safe passage to and from school.
The PPD said they plan to expand their “Safe Zones,” providing additional uniformed police officers at school dismissal times. This school year there will be 27 Safe Zones that will encompass 40 district and charter schools.
Community members with the Institute for the Development of African-American Youth, Inc. will help patrol routes, providing further supervision and support for students traveling from eight schools, Mayor Jim Kenney’s office said.
The city of Philadelphia has more than 620 crossing guards for the year, as well, and applications are still being accepted.
Inside school walls, the district said all high schools will have metal detectors, and started installing them at middle schools at the end of the last school year.
In an effort to keep students safe from illness and COVID-19 infections, district leaders said on Aug. 12 that students and teaching staff must wear masks indoors for the first 10 days of the start of school.
The safety announcements come on the heels of a violent summer, as Philadelphia police report at least 350 homicides in the city so far in 2022, up 2% from this time last year, which had been the deadliest year on record in the city’s history.
According to the city controller’s office, 146 of the city’s 1,217 shooting victims so far this year were younger than 18 years old.