Workers keep watch over new Chicago school year

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett holds hands with a member of the Safe Passage program after she spoke during a training session at Chicago State University in Chicago, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)

CHICAGO (AP) — Busy unfamiliar streets are being made a bit friendlier on the first day of school in Chicago thanks to hundreds of Safe Passage workers in bright neon vests.

It's the most visible sign of what's at stake for the nation's third-largest school district after a number of schools were closed. The closures mean some students have to cross gang boundaries to get to their new schools.

Fifty-seven-year-old Rochelle Nicholson is one of the guards helping children in the Gresham neighborhood get to class on Monday. She says the presence of the Safe Passage workers will be reassuring for students.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to join students on their walk to O'Toole Elementary on the city's South Side.