Just past 10 a.m. last Thursday, a fourth grader at Beye Elementary School, 230 N. Cuyler Ave., attempted to slide head-first down a banister at the school. He lost his balance, plunging three stories to the ground level. The student somehow righted midair, landed on his feet, and escaped the incident relatively injury-free.
He returned to class Tuesday morning.
"I know he understands" how lucky he was, said Principal Jonathan Ellwanger. "Everyone, from the first paramedic on the scene to the doctors at the medical center drove home that message to him."
Ellwanger said Oak Park firefighter/paramedics were fortuitously in the school at the time of the incident teaching second graders about safety. A firefighter/paramedic was the first on the scene. The student was on his way to join his class outside, and his classroom teacher was at the scene shortly after.
After the incident, Ellwanger, social worker Ivy Lenarz and student support specialist Karen Foleno visited classrooms to talk about the incident, focusing on the importance of safety while using the stairs.
"The only part of someone's body that should touch the handrail is their hand," a statement sent home to parents reads in part.
Ellwanger said the student never would have fallen if he hadn't tried to slide down the rail.
He said another incident "eerily similar" in circumstances but at a different stairwell in the building happened more than a decade ago at Beye. That student landed on his head, so his recovery was slower. That was the only other such incident in the 18 years he's been at the school, Ellwanger said.