As the dean of Loyola’s School of Education, Michael Dantley knows the value of a safe learning environment. That’s why he helped students on the first day of school along a Safe Passage route outside McCutcheon Elementary School in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. After the Chicago Board of Education voted earlier this year to shut dozens of schools across the city, officials created the routes as a safe haven for students who now will have to walk farther to get to school—and possibly through gang territory.

Dantley, who was joined by more than a dozen faculty and staff members from the School of Education,said Loyola has a long-standing relationship with McCutcheon, which made this volunteer effort an easy decision.

“We’re doing this to show our commitment to the students and families we’ve worked with through the years, and to demonstrate the importance of the first day of school as setting the stage for the rest of the school year,” Dantley said. “Every student should feel safe in school.”

Approximately 50 volunteers from Loyola’s Education Law and Policy Institute and the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law were also at schools during the first two days of class to assist students who were displaced by the closings.

“Our intention is to lend our legal expertise to assist in identifying issues early so they might be resolved,” wrote members of the monitoring project in a letter to Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools.