OPRF closed campus is 'closer than they think'

OPRF Student Council urges classmates to improve behavior

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Oak Park and River Forest High School's Student Council has a message for classmates who are causing trouble for neighbors during lunchtime: "Closed campus is coming if we don't shape up."

That's also the wording on a banner the council put up in the Student Center near the front entrance on Scoville Avenue. The rest of it reads: "No littering. No loitering. No lighting up."

The banner went up in early November. The campus is currently closed to freshmen only. But neighbors for some time have complained about other students causing trouble nears their homes during lunch period. Some students have been seen smoking, hanging out on their property and even urinating in their yards, according to neighbors.

Emily Hendrix, president of OPRF's Student Council has also heard those complaints. The council has talked with school officials about the problem and how to get students to behave better. Putting up the banner was among the ideas council members came up with during their own meeting.

"We want to make sure students know what's going on and make sure we're respectful of the community," Hendrix said. "If not, then one consequence could be closing the campus."

That idea has been on the mind of school officials recently, though closing the campus has been talked about for years. The idea has seen renewed interest this year, stemming from the anti-substance abuse efforts that began this spring by the school's Citizens Council advocacy group.

At town halls over the summer, students, parents and residents with no kids at the high school reported seeing smoking and drug use in the neighborhood during and after school hours. Closing the campus to all students has been one option proposed by parents, part of the idea being to prevent drugs and dealers from getting into or near the school.

In a letter to parents Nov. 12, Principal Nathaniel Rouse noted that closing the campus is an option if students' behavior didn't improve.

"I do believe the majority of our students use the off-campus lunch privilege responsibly. However, if we cannot find other ways to change the negative behaviors of a much smaller but significant number of students, we must look at alternatives, including closing the campus."

Hendrix said the council also put up fliers around the school with the same message as the banner, which was actually torn down shortly after it went up. No one knows who did it, she adds, but some students apparently thought its message was a joke.

"It could be closer than they think," said Hendrix, who supports an open campus in general.

Another idea from the council was to close the campus for a day or two as a preview for students, but that's not really so easy to do, according to school officials. Rouse has noted that accommodations would need to be made to have all classes in the building during lunch periods.

A town hall with students was another idea the council floated to get the message across. Hendrix said she feels for the neighbors and wouldn't want students acting like that near her house.

"We do want students to be more respectful to the community because we're a part of the community," she said.

Reader Comments

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An OPRF parent from Oak Park  

Posted: December 2nd, 2010 2:34 PM

Have you seen how students react when little things are changed like tardy policies or wearing ID's? Imagine if you suddenly told them that they had to stay inside the dirty HS all day! There would actually be riots. The culture is changing and we have to change with it! Our ways were once seen as "Crazy Progressives" in the same way that people talk about our kids! The fresh air at lunch is so important to the education process! If they close campus, I as a parent will protest for those kids!

Sally Forth from oak park  

Posted: December 2nd, 2010 12:25 PM

Eric et al, please see Roberta Raymond's One View on this topic. I'm certain that in 1955 OPRF had more than 3200 students, and they all stayed in the building at lunch. In this day and age, there is simply no good reason to let students out of the building at lunch time. I'm not opposed to certain seniors earning the priviledge to leave, but that's it. The kids would adapt quickly...it's the parents and certain OPRF employees who'd likely have issues with this, but for no good reason. Close it

OP Citezen from Oak Park  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 11:39 PM

Lets hope Tasty Dog doesn't go out of business if the campus is closed!! Maybe the school will let them deliver to the cafeterias!!

Eric from River Forest  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 7:28 PM

Sally Forth, False! Opening campus was not a "typical 60's 'progressive' decision to help students 'grow'." A direct quote from the OPRF principal in 1912, published in the Trapeze newspaper, states "students should refrain from using weed until three o'clock". Drug use during school hours is not some brand new menacing issue at OPRF. I'm sorry, I don't think cramming 3,200 students inside the school building for lunch will solve any drug problems in Oak Park.


Posted: December 1st, 2010 4:55 PM

A majority of students are respectful towards the community and only a few students misuse the privilege of going out to lunch, therefore the whole school should not lose the privilege to go out to lunch.

W. from Oak Park  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 2:09 PM

Seniors who earn the privilege - good grades, behavior and attendance.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 10:17 AM

An exception should be made for seniors

Sally Forth from Oak Park  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 9:06 AM

What also needs to be emphasized is not only the behavior of students during lunch periods, but also the appearance of non-students (i.e. drug dealers, gang wannabes, and general creeps) who want access to students during non-supervised time. If memory is correct, opening the campus was a typical '60's "progessive" decision to help students "grow". Well, some of them grow all right. Time to keep them in the building and the wolves at bay, at least for a while.

W. from Oak Park  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 9:02 AM

Agreed! It would cut done on the time the police have to patrol the area as well - saving taxpayer dollars. The students are there to learn not plan a lunch outing.

concerned taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 7:45 AM

Open campus lunch should be an earned privilege ONLY for seniors!!!

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