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DC identifies five Safe Passage 'priority areas' around schools

DC identifies five safe passage 'priority areas' around schools. (ABC7)

With new questions about attendance across the District and recent incidents of violence involving D.C. youth, Mayor Muriel Bowser says her administration is working to ensure students get to school and get there safely. Her Safe Passage program will soon start recruiting volunteers.

The Bowser administration has identified five neighborhoods it calls "priority areas" for ensuring student safety. Collaborating with schools, D.C. Police, Metro Transit Police, DDOT, even D.C. Parks and Rec hold monthly calls about the effort.

“[We’re] making sure they have great cross walks, great lighting, crossing guards, extra support at some Metro stations to be sure young people are being nice to each other,” Bowser said.

Four of the five priority areas include Metrorail stations: Anacostia Metro Station, L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station, Minnesota Avenue Metro Station, NOMA-Gallaudet Metro Station. The fifth area is the Good Hope Road corridor.

D.C. Police Inspector Mike Coligan said, “It's based on the travel of kids to and from school, reported incidents, anecdotal incidents and volume of the actual students who are accessing these routes.”

Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School is located in the NOMA-Gallaudet priority area, just off North Capitol Street. The corridor is always bustling with activity, including some criminal activity.

Off camera, parents said they are most concerned about traffic safety in the area.

Principal Dahlia Aguilar said, “As a school that's committed to sustainability, we really discourage driving. But that means then that our sidewalks and our streets have to be safe for skateboarders, cyclists, scooters, walkers.”

D.C. Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles said the District’s Safe Passage work group will soon start recruiting and training community members as Safe Passage volunteers, guiding students to and from school each day.

“We're going to identify the places where just having caring adults around would make a difference,” Niles said.

District leaders acknowledge students who don't attend school can find themselves in unsafe situations. And some students who don't feel safe in their neighborhoods might not show up for school.

“It's really a multifaceted problem and we're trying to attack it from all sides,” Niles said.

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