It is a bit jarring, the architectural rendering of new security doors containing the main entrance to Oak Park and River Forest High School. Placed perhaps 20 feet inside the existing double doors the new aluminum and glass security wall will prevent visitors from entering the school without registering with school personnel.
Already visitors are expected to stop at the Welcome Center and hand over IDs and receive photo badges before they head to a teacher meeting or other gathering. And for several years security staff has been stationed at the main Scoville entrance to make sure no one simply wandered into the school.
But this is an added step, presented in a letter to parents Monday from Principal Nathaniel Rouse, as "current best practices in school safety." And given the moment we live in, the school horrors we have witnessed as a nation, it is hard to argue with this precaution.
OPRF has actively become more tightly secured in recent years. The partially closed campus, the demand that teachers, staff and students all wear IDs at every moment, the clearing of the hallways during class periods, the limited use of the student center during the school day, securing of doors with alarms and video cameras reflect several purposes.
The current school administration wanted to send a message to students that academics count most and that being in a classroom at the appointed hour was the simple expectation. In closing the campus entirely for underclassman and making it a privilege for upperclassmen to leave the building, the message of higher expectations was reinforced.
We are generally supportive of these efforts and believe that as the initial and inevitable resistance of students – and some faculty – eased that OPRF has become a more focused school environment. The worry is that it becomes too sterile an environment. The administration has been somewhat responsive in addressing those concerns, though more work remains.
Now comes the wall of doors that separates the community from its high school. It is a pragmatic and necessary step and we support it. But we appreciated the closing line in the principal's message to the community: "Please know that as we implement this new security system, we also will be working hard to improve the ways in which we welcome guests into our building."