Many students heading back to class in Chicago next week will be greeted by adults who are working with the city's "Safe Passage" program, which places "watchers' along designated routes to help make sure the students get to class safely.

The stakes are high — gang violence and gun crime are pressing problems in many Chicago neighbourhoods. A recent shooting along a "Safe Passage" route wounded five people, prompting Mayor Rahm Emanuel to say there is "no greater responsibility for every adult, regardless of who you are, than the safety of our children."

The program establishes routes that children and their parents are urged to follow to and from school. "Watchers" are positioned along the route, with signs clearly indicating it is part of the "Safe Passage" program, said Bob Jackson, executive director of Roseland Ceasefire, one of the groups helping with the program.

There have been a spate of school closures in Chicago, and many of the students relying on the protected routes will be attending new schools and walking even farther to get to class.

"Our job is to make sure that those routes that have been assigned are safe," Jackson told CBC's As It Happens.