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By Terry Dean
Two weeks into Oak Park and River Forest High School's semi-closed campus policy, there have been no students standing on tables looking for a place to sit, school officials report.
That, noted Principal Nathaniel Rouse, was one of the complaints, and/or exaggerations, raised before the high school implemented its new policy of keeping freshmen and sophomores on campus during lunchtime. During an 11 o'clock lunch period last week, both the South and North cafeterias were abuzz with students —freshmen and sophomores eat in the South lunchroom while upperclassmen are in the North.
Students can also go to the bathroom during lunchtime, provided they let staff know. Kids being denied bathroom privileges was another of the exaggerations, Rouse said.
In all the first week went well, he said, and students have mostly adjusted to the policy change. Previously, only freshmen were prohibited from leaving the campus. Additional tables were added to the lunchrooms and one extra cafeteria employee was hired to accommodate the change.
Micheline Piekarski, OPRF's food and nutrition director, said students are in and out of the lunch lines in about 10 minutes. The North Cafeteria is the smaller of the two, so it made sense to put juniors and seniors there, she said. Security staff near the North Cafeteria doors monitor students entering and leaving. It's through those doors only that upperclassmen can leave out and return during lunch hours — typically from around 11 o'clock to shortly after 1 p.m.
Students coming in through any other door will be directed back to the North Cafeteria entrance. That was the case with four female students who walked through the main entrance on Scoville but were stopped by security staff. The high school has also purchased a new high-tech security system that records hallways, exits and entrances, and inside both cafeterias. OPRF security staff monitor the system.
"It's a great deterrent," Rouse said. "This is something new and we're monitoring this live. Faculty have designated doors that, during the day, we can go out of, so we don't set off the alarm. This helps us from a security standpoint and, also, if there is any movement or action, [security] can get on the radio and tell somebody we need to deploy some people here if [needed]."