The closed campus is closing minds

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Kathy Lewis

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Dear D200 board members,

I blame myself. I should have attended those meetings last spring about closing the campus. I've had a student at OPRF for the last seven years, so the concept seemed absurd to me. We are a landlocked school — not a suburban, college-type campus like Barrington or New Trier. Surely our space constraints alone would preclude closing OPRF.

The high school is a pressure cooker, and the lunch time release from that small space is necessary. But the current situation is made even more dire due to the extremely poor execution of a misguided plan. Dr. Millard said kids would have ample space and be allowed to "eat in the halls" and the Student Center. Instead, we have the trifecta of closing the campus, restricting food to the cafeteria, and instituting a "duty free" lunch policy for our teachers.

Most parents don't know that kids may only eat in the cafeteria, that lines are long for buying food or exiting the building, and that students are required to spend (aka waste) 10 minutes in the cafeteria before going to the library or any other place they have a pass for.

These new lunch policies have combined to form an assault on the arts at OPRF. In the past, 100+ students in each lunch period used their time to rehearse in the band room; sing in "Brown Bag" vocal ensembles; work on set construction in Stage Crew; publish the Trapeze and Tabula; or continue projects in ceramics, jewelry making and studio arts. None of this is taking place now because kids are not allowed to eat in these spaces. Or in the case of Brown Bags, teachers are no longer allowed to be paid for sponsoring extra-curricular programming held during school hours.

I'm guessing there are other examples beyond the arts where the closed campus and food rules are adversely impacting kids. Initially, students weren't permitted to eat outside on the school mall. They still cannot eat in the Student Center! Incidentally, how has our closed campus impacted our struggling businesses on Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue?

Who came up with this stuff? Does the administration really lack the larger perspective to realize that all of this is too much altogether? This is a race to the bottom with the only standard being that the fire marshal OKed such large numbers in the cafeterias. What about the academic enrichment that used to take place over the lunch hour? Why aren't we encouraging our teachers to sponsor more special events at lunch — now that they have a captive audience?

The current lunch situation at OPRF is not only inconvenient, it is detrimental. The students feel like caged animals now. How do you think they will feel in February? What discipline issues will erupt then?

So when is the well publicized meeting asking parents to voice their opinion on the implementation of the new lunch policy? I will be sure to attend.

Reader Comments

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OPRF Parent  

Posted: October 1st, 2011 11:00 PM

@OP Guy, do you really think the students who were using drugs and/or alcohol at lunchtime last year are now suddenly following the rules and are not using drugs and alcohol in the building? While normally I try to demand respect for our teenagers, in this case, I think you are giving them way too much trust. The same students who left campus to misbehave are now doing it BEFORE school or DURING the school day. They did not change their behavior, just the location and/or time.

OP Guy  

Posted: September 29th, 2011 1:45 AM

High School Parent, I agree. Doing something and seeing it fail, and then doing the exact same thing again while hoping for different results is the definition of stupidity. I'm glad that OPRFHS has the courage to try something different, even if it's not popular.

High School Parent  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 3:41 PM

I'm not sure about OPRFHS being "unique". Just as all parents feel their kids are special, all communities feel their schools are unique. OPRFHS is a good school, but, by measurable criteria, it could be a lot better. The Sun-Time ranks us 48th in the state (and in the bottom half of our conference.) This despite one of the highest property tax rates in Illinois. Other nearby high schools are doing a better job with less funding. We should try methods that have been shown to work.


Posted: September 27th, 2011 1:00 PM

High School Parent, your approach unfortunately is what the board seems to be doing. Chasing its tail, trying to copy other districts, having no idea of what makes it unique and, yes, a good school. It's a fatal flaw of most of OP's public institutions.


Posted: September 27th, 2011 12:56 PM

What can I say? We elect board members in the hopes they don't make terrible decisions. We thought they had common sense. Yes, that was a mistake on our part.

OP Guy  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:34 AM

I guess we'll never really know the true number of parents for or against. Just because the parents opposed to this are upset that their opinions weren't taken into consideration doesn't mean it was the wrong decision. At the end of the day, they can't blame the school for them not showing up.

High School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:31 AM

@WTWE, It's important to look at what other schools are doing, especially if they're more successful than we are. 200 is a very well funded district, operating with a surplus in a community that has some of the highest property taxes in the state (and the country). For that, we get a HS that's ranked in the middle of the pack, both statewide and compared to other conference schools. Many schools get better results with less funding. Why ignore what works for neighboring high schools?

well, that was easy  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 5:01 AM

Also, the people who did go to the meeting, who were against closing the campus, were marginalized. It was a very weird process.

well, that was easy  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 5:00 AM

OP Guy, I think the problem many parents and students have is that actually it isn't a question of numbers of parents.It was a very determined and organized minority of parents. Many of us who were too busy, lazy, or distracted to go to the meetings were told, "they will never close the campus," because of logistics (17 exits!). We were wrong. It is a mistake to say there was a groundswell of opinion to close the campus.

OP Guy  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 12:35 AM

Well, not so easy... I guess there were enough people that felt the open campus wasn't working, despite what you, I and everyone else experienced. Another OP parent, it certainly will drop the level of drug and alcohol use during school time... out side of school is the responsibility of families and the police.

Another OP parent  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 10:44 PM

I also attended a closed campus in HS and was surprised that OPRF was open. Then I saw that having an open campus worked fine. Which is to say, I learned that just because that was the way it was when I was in HS doesn't mean it should be that way today. And keep in mind, most closed campuses are not in urban settings where kids can walk to things. Also, closing the campus will NOT decrease the drugs and alcohol.

well, that was easy  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 10:43 PM

So I guess anything that is done at any other school will work for OPRF, just because? That's good to know.

OP Guy  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 10:03 PM

High School Parent, thank you for shedding some perspective on this non-issue. I too went to a closed campus school... one year they opened the campus for seniors, and most of them took their lunch break as an opportunity to get high, drunk... MANY schools are closed campus, and it's NEVER been a big deal. I get the feeling that this whole spat is a knee jerk reaction from feeling punished, like when their parents tell them they're grounded.

High School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 2:38 PM

I attended high school 30 years ago. My campus was closed. My cafeteria was crowded and noisy. We were not allowed to take food our of the cafeteria. It never even crossed my mind that I was being incarcerated or deprived of my rights. Now one of my kids has to follow the same rules I did, the same rules that nearly all of his conference peers already follow. What makes that bad?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 12:38 PM

OParker, this one is simple. The principal wants to make a statement of taking control. The problem is what is so wrong with the students that they need that type of control? What happened to all of the previous students who when to OPRF that didn't require them to be in the Principals control? Because you get a title of leader, doesn't make a person a good leader. That seems to be something many people over look with our leaders.


Posted: September 26th, 2011 12:27 PM

PLEASE folks - let's stick to the issues and resist the temptation to bash either each other and/or each others' race. Let's not give the Journal cause to close comments!

OP Guy  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 2:32 AM

Q from Oak Park, The great thing about having rules against littering and telling people to pick their trash up is there are no grey areas... you either littered or you didn't. And when caught red handed, the evidence is right there sitting next to you. So, when you here someone say "you're just telling me to pick it up cause I'm white, or black, or brown..." you say "no, I'm telling you to pick it up because I just saw you throw your Cheetos packet on the floor".

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 1:49 AM

OP Guy, you know very well how the Race Card will be played if a student is asked to pick up something that he or she tossed to the ground. White's just like to say they are being persecuted anytime you don't like what they did. If people can't get away with complaining racial reasons then it would stop and realize there is actually nothing to it.

OP Guy  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 12:59 AM

Ah, yes ref, pass the buck... so instead of actually dealing the negative actions of some students and having them learn to take responsibility, just send them else where and let someone else have to deal with them. OR, rules regarding littering could be put in place and enforced... but I'm guessing we would hear more crying about people's civil liberties being oppressed... and possibly more orange t-shirts?


Posted: September 25th, 2011 7:51 PM

One way to deal with the mess is to let them go off-campus for lunch. :-)


Posted: September 25th, 2011 2:42 PM

I'm torn. I agree with the Juniors and Seniors, that cafe is WAY too small. I'm also torn BC eating in other areas of the school brings mice, that the school has tons of. Have you ever seen the hallways after kids eat there? Disgusting. McDonalds is cleaner. Many of the students did this to themselves, by not cleaning, and that includes outside the school as well. Being a worker at the school, my ears can't take the level of noise. That plus the mess they leave has GOT TO STOP.


Posted: September 24th, 2011 4:00 AM

From the article: "So when is the well publicized meeting asking parents to voice their opinion on the implementation of the new lunch policy? I will be sure to attend." Me too.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2011 12:35 AM

Lets hope the school has metal detectors so when the carry conceal law passes, students don't take their guns to school.

Mar from oak park   

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 11:21 PM

As a student at Oprf I can say that having to wait in long lunch lines with Hungery people pushing and shoveling you and then sitting down at a crowded table isn't what I call a little bit of downtime. This policy has made it stressful for many students to get out of the lunch room and I personally believe that in the real world you're not confined like the way we are.

OP parent  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 10:06 PM

Closing the campus is not the largest problem the world will face. However,it is an unnecessary distraction and disruption. There is not enough room in the North Cafe and some of the other restrictions are just silly. But the biggest problem is that all these restrictions do nothing to address the real issues and problems at the high school - unless finding something to keep Rouse busy counts as one of the major challenges at the HS of course.

Left Wing Liberal  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 9:54 PM

I think the "American Criminal Liberties Union" should file a lawsuit. These poor students are being oppressed.

OP Guy  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 9:44 PM

ref, you're correct, YOUR logic is NOT my game! I figured that analogy was probably going over your head, but at least I tried. There is a difference between "discipline", and structural change for the better. The problem is exactly that people like you see it as "discipline" and over look the wider positive implications the changes will have.


Posted: September 23rd, 2011 3:54 PM

OP Guy, logic doesn't seem to be your game. But just to make sure you understand my comment, as far as I know, there are no 6-y-os attending OPRF. The kids have lots of rules they have been following, in middle and high school. This is nothing new. And I think they do have a good reason to complain, and every right to do so. I take great issue with the lazy discipline approach of tarring everyone with the same brush.

OP Guy  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 2:37 PM

Ref, to address your 2nd question... it gives me perspective and a sense of reality as to what "loss of freedom" actually it. Along the lines of your logic, a 6 year old being forced to up the dosage of veggies is losing his/her freedom, and their protest is a justified act against some oppressive power that is going to make "things" "improve".

OP Guy  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 2:30 PM

ref, I'm not "impatient with people who complain", I'm "impatient with people who WHINE for no good reason". There's a difference.


Posted: September 23rd, 2011 11:48 AM

Having rules and policies you have to follow isn't exactly a new thing for the high schoolers.

What are we doing to these kids?  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 10:37 AM

@ OPRF Parent: What happens when these responsible students enter the real world and aren't treating respectfully? work, by creditors, the real estate market, by their own children...then what. It's great for them to learn how to handle situations like this now but in reality they are not being disrespected. They are learning what being an adult is like, having rules and policies "imposed" on you that you must follow... where your rationale doesn't get you out of tickets & penalties.


Posted: September 23rd, 2011 8:35 AM

If you are "facebook verified," you can post longer posts. Also, OP guy, if you are impatient with people who complain, why on earth do you hang out here? Does it somehow make you feel more pure, more virtuous? Just because things are worse elsewhere doesn't mean things here can't improve.

OP Guy  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 12:49 AM

Daniel, excuse me if I don't take the student's comments serious enough to give a serious reaction... frankly, I find people taking issue with the new rules kind of childish, because in the wider scheme of things, it is actually a positive move, but some people can't get over their egos long enough to see it. After dealing with people on a daily basis who have ACTUALLY lost freedoms, I have little patience to listen to whining. Also, why do you get to post such long comments?

OP Guy  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 12:41 AM

Deal with the jerk, "mental defective"? LOL, looks like you can't tell the difference between a question and an accusation... You may want to take a good long look in the mirror before calling people "mental defective", and accusing them of accusations.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: September 22nd, 2011 12:35 PM

I agree with Kathy's letter and I agree with Ruth's comment. I too attended meetings and my dissenting voice was not heard. Closing the campus was a knee-jerk reaction to a small group of vocal "do-good" parents and the new policy on no food in the classrooms and closing the Student Center to the students (?????) only add to the negative feelings of the students. And before you say get these kids should get over it, these are responsible students who are not being treated respectfully.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: September 22nd, 2011 12:16 PM

I'm not sure OP Guy is literally accusing Oprfhs student of drug use, but the comment is nevertheless inappropriate not only as an unnecessary insult, but also because it mischaracterizes, and therefore fails to address, the student's comment. With regard to freedom of expression, the student obviously is referring to what was captured in Kathy Lewis' piece, namely that, prior to the new policy, more than a 100 students "each lunch period used their time to rehearse in the band room; sing in 'Brown Bag' vocal ensembles; work on set construction in Stage Crew; publish the Trapeze and Tabula; or continue projects in ceramics, jewelry making and studio arts. None of this is taking place now because kids are not allowed to eat in these spaces. Or in the case of Brown Bags, teachers are no longer allowed to be paid for sponsoring extra-curricular programming held during school hours." That is in fact a result of the new policy, and it is in fact a restriction on the students' artistic expression. OP Guy further asks: "Are you saying that the new rules are going to somehow drive hoards of good students to start smoking weed, shooting smack, dropping acid and committing crime?" The student is saying nothing of the kind. The idea that cooping students up in an overcrowded cafeteria with no place or opportunity to release energy might lead to increased, rather than decreased, disciplinary problems is a completely valid point.

Deal with the jerk  

Posted: September 22nd, 2011 2:43 AM

WJ, please deal with this mental defective who keeps accusing minors posting on here of being on drugs.

OP Guy  

Posted: September 21st, 2011 10:05 PM

Oprfhs student, were you high when you typed this? Do you really believe that your freedoms of expression have been taken away? Are you saying that the new rules are going to somehow drive hoards of good students to start smoking weed, shooting smack, dropping acid and committing crime? It seems like one doesn't need a physical space to be dramatic.


Posted: September 21st, 2011 9:37 PM

I really don't care what Elmhurst or NS schools do. OPRF clearly is a great school. It's so Oak Park to trash what is good in our community. I am so tired of it.

Broaden Your Mind, Learn from Others from OPRF  

Posted: September 21st, 2011 8:22 PM

@ref: except that Elmhurst and North Shore schools actually are better than OPRF on every measure that counts. Why not listen to and learn from schools/districts that do it better than we do? Do you honestly think OPRF has the answers? Apparently not....

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: September 21st, 2011 7:00 PM

Don't blame yourself. I attended some of those meetings last year, and the organizers were not interested in hearing perspectives that differed from their own. I'm not sure why the administration and board felt obligated to respond to such tactics.

Oprfhs student from Oak park  

Posted: September 21st, 2011 5:11 PM

Oak park river forest in the past has been a school were all students have been able to freely express themselves through Whatever they wanted to do. Closed campus completely eliminates this. Not being allowed to eat in other places of the school restrains students from doing important things like arts, or stage crew as mentioned. For parents that do not realize this they are blinded. The number of students involved in bad activities is so small and hurting good students only leads us to bad.

stop babying them  

Posted: September 21st, 2011 4:16 PM

The publicized meeting has passed and you missed the boat. A little structure for these kids won't kill 'em. It will help them learn some of how the outside world works. I wish I could go 8-3 and have a regular lunch hour in a cafeteria.


Posted: September 21st, 2011 10:33 AM

I have to admit I get so very tired of people saying OPRF and D97 should do xy or z because Elmhurst or the North Shore is doing it. It's a very reactionary take and doesn't take into account the fact that our distinctions might actually be a good thing.

OPRF parent from Oak Park  

Posted: September 21st, 2011 10:20 AM

I'm parent of a frosh, and a 50 year resident of OP living within 3 blocks of school. As such, & as one who went to the meetings, I can tell you this policy was done with great care, but also knowing that it wouldn't be perfect. There will be some tweaking, but closing campus is a good idea and long overdue. We pay the admin good $ to figure this out, and they will. BTW, New Trier, LT, York, Hins Cent, etc are also landlocked schools with closed campuses. And please don't use "assault"...

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